Barbara Drucker: Material Evidence

The presence of hair in Barbara Drucker’s installation Material Evidence arouses reflection on a wide range of intrinsic issues like energy and growth, as well as extrinsic concerns like beauty and power. Hair identifies youth and age, gender and generation.

It may assert celebration or denote mourning, reveal its true nature or confess artifice.

Hair, braided or hanging long, as a wig or rolled into a ball, most often black (but in one instance provocatively blonde), dominates the dream-like ambience that the viewer enters, to invoke a myriad of metaphors and associations, a potent symbol emblematic of cultures both ancient and modern.

Originally a painter, Drucker turned to assemblage and installation for its greater narrative and expressive potential and for the latitude it grants in the use of materials literally drawn from life, opting for the real over the simulated, the factual over the fictitious. Eschewing both the tableau format of Edward Kienholz and the refined order of Barbara Bloom, Drucker’s installation recalls the work of Joseph Beuys and George Herms, to address issues inherent in the broader human community no less than those that are specific to a single society.

Hair is only one of a diverse group of components in Drucker’s installation, that speak of nourishment and nurturing, of nature and the earth, of men as well as women, of death as well as life. Each element a token of experience, a resonant voice, artifacts drawn from everyday life – beans, fabric, shoes and watering can, a rock and broken plate – evoke a culture rooted in an ancient world; plastic bags, synthetic turf and black belts introduce a counterpoint reflecting the values and reality of contemporary society.

In Material Evidence, Drucker stimulates viewer-consciousness using objects that embody the conflict between contemporary society and primary human reality. With clarity and intelligence, she transmits to her audience the heightened awareness of self that is gained through discovery of kinship within difference, of affinity within disparity.

Merle Schipper, October 1994