February 10, 2009

The Bugaboo Cameleon As A Work Of Art, And Vice Versa


In late 2007, Thomas Brauer curated a group exhibition titled, "A Muzzle of Bees" at 33 Bond Gallery in NoHo. Brauer focused on work that "depicts the black moment after a great loss and the suits of armor we fabricate to survive."

Work, perhaps, like artist Lee Roberts' 2007 sculpture, Bugaboo Cameleon (sand/green, sand/blue, bright blue/orange, dark grey/pink),. I finally had to email to determine that it was a sculpture, and not a miraculous painting.

And not only was it a sculpture, it's a series of tiny sculptures, just nine inches tall, an edition that Roberts built up from wood and metal, cast in plastic, and then handpainted.

In an email Q&A, Roberts told me how he became "completely fascinated" with the stroller as an object after seeing so many on the streets of New York City. "I was attracted to the perfection of the Bugaboo and the intimacy of its function," he explained. "I see the Bugaboo as a symbol of yearning for the bliss of a perfect object."

Do tell, Mr. Roberts, do tell:

DT: What was the impetus for the piece? First of all, is it one piece or a series?

LR: I initially only made the four you saw on [33Bond's] site. I conceived this as an object that is made to order and any variation of colors available on the Bugaboo site could be made, although I will only make one of each color combination. The four your saw are display models.

DT: As an admitted Bugaboo fanboi, I wonder what it was that interested you in the stroller? Was there something about the form, or was it their presence in the street/city/culture, their demographic or cultural significations, or some combination?

lee_roberts_pink_bugaboo.jpgLR: I felt like the social significance of the piece was a little lost on much of the art crowd. If one is not already aware of what a Bugaboo is the piece becomes very hard to decipher. Many people mistook the object for something I had bought and were quite confused. Others saw the piece as social criticism, which is interesting but not really intended. I am a fanboi too, and I meant the piece as a sincere homage to the Bugaboo. The piece is much more about the exploration of human need and desire than a criticism of wealth.

The impetus to start the piece was a combination of seeing Bugaboos everywhere in the city, and a general interest in babies and reproduction as a subject for my work. After seeing a number of them around town I became curious. Upon studying the design further, I became completely fascinated with them. I was attracted to the perfection and of the Bugaboo and the intimacy of its function. I am interested in the pursuit of perfection in life through consumerism and the unfillable void that drives us to consume. I see the Bugaboo as a symbol of yearning for the bliss of a perfect object.

DT: What is it about the scale and the process that interested you? Was it hard? Judging from the materials, it sounds a bit like the vinyl toy creation process. Is that similarity relevant in any way?

LR:: As far as the process of making the piece it was actually quite an undertaking making a scale version of something so complex. I felt it was important that they be as accurate as possible and are made as closely as possible to scale. To build my model I actually spent weeks going to different baby stores measuring the strollers until i would be asked politely (or not so politely) to leave. The casting process is quite similar to how a plastic toy might be made. Getting the castings clean requires the use of a pressure chamber to remove the bubbles and imperfections. After that they are handpainted and assembled.

DT: How does the Bugaboo piece relate [or not] to other work you're making?

LR: As far as more current work, I am underway on a Volvo v70 that will be cast and ready in the very near future. The scale of the piece is quite different ( much larger) and there is a cave in the interior of the cabin.

I checked out Daddy types and found it quite interesting. I am not a dad, but am very interested in fatherhood (I guess that's pretty obvious). If it weren't for the complexities of the pursuit of a career as an artist I would probably be having children around now. I will have to check in to keep up with trends in the dad community.

DT: Sweet, thanks a lot.

Bugaboo Cameleon, 2007, by Lee Roberts, is available in a limited edition, with a unique example of each color combination, for $899.99, the price of a "real" Bugaboo Cameleon in 2007. For inquiries and custom color combinations, contact the artist directly.

Thanks to Larisa at 33 Bond Gallery for images and assistance. [q&a edited together from email, thanks to artfagcity for the cluing me into Lee's work]

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