Shotgun Review

This Means Something

By Brian Andrews September 13, 2010


Roy Neary never expected to be a sculptor, but he had an unexpected driv e to craft a peculiar form. After experimenting in larger and larger mediums, he discovered the shape he was compulsively making was copasetic with the column of rock that makes up Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Upon traveling to the monument, he has one of the first contacts with extra-terrestrial intelligence. This narrative of Roy Neary, of course, is fictional. He was a character played by Richard Dreyfuss in Stephen Spielberg’s classic film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Neary’s inspirational mania is something most artists have experienced, however briefly, in their own studios. In her installation This Means Something (2010), Sasha Krieger reenacts one of Neary’s creations—the living-room-scale model made of dirt and hedges—in the storefront window of Sight School on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland. Accompanying the sculpture is a montage of images of the monument and its various re-creations, including the miniatures from Douglas Trumbell’s stunning optical effects from the film. The installation was constructed throughout the past month in the full public view of the storefront, performatively mirroring Roy Neary’s narrative arc.

Film still from Stephen Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

Krieger’s live sculptural action recasts Neary’s compulsion not as mental illness, as it is interpreted in the film, but as creative motivation. In this way, the work privileges the artist’s process, as opposed to their physical output, as the driving force in the production of cultural meaning. This key distinction elevates the visually-awkward lumpy sculpture into a compelling allegory about the human need to create and give significance to their creations. It makes you wish every artist’s endeavors could invoke such earth-shattering results as Roy Neary's.


This Means Something is on view at Sight School in Oakland through Setpember 30, 2010.

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