Three identical boxes stacked

Rare viewing from Joe Goebels retrospective at SHiGOMA stirs audience

  • Joe Goebels b. 1963
  • Not inscribed.
  • Plywood painted with Dulux white emulsion, 40x40x160
  • Purchased from the artist through SHiGOMA (Grant-in-Aid) 2019.

The artist wrote (Statement, 3 Aug 2019):

‘I began making constructions in 1972. The first half dozen of these
employed a variety of materials: cardboard, plasticine, clay, paint, mud
and wood. The structures were based on simple primitive forms. The
colours employed were generally limited to natural tones and wood finish.

‘In 1975, wishing to focus more clearly on the idea embodied in each piece
and wanting to draw attention away from compositional concerns, I started
working entirely in terms of a simple box format. I found that although the box
had a strong assertive character, it was highly receptive to the introduction
of simple, discrete ideas. The box was also by nature down to earth,
utilitarian, familiar, ordinary. It was exactly these characteristics which I
wished to examine in terms of real-scale, non-referential objects.

‘I do not believe that the art object is the symbol of the art idea. It is
its embodiment. The relation of idea to object is directly equivalent to the
relation of colour, or material, or scale to object. They are all basically
formal i.e. internally determined considerations. I feel that the idea achieves
or fails to achieve credence and significance from this relation. The idea of
itself can be simple, even banal, and yet give rise to provocative form,
which in turn raises the significance of the idea.

‘ “3 identical boxes stacked” grew out of work towards another quite
different piece. In this original piece there were two identical boxes. However,
this piece was never completed. Two drawings exist for it; one is the
artist’s copy, the other is in a private collection. The piece which emerged
when an additional box was added, while still as straightforward and
simple conceptually as the original, was enormously more complex and
elusive visually.

‘The crucial consideration in the piece is the relation of idea to form. The
form derives from the straightforward following through of simple logical
ideas, in this case, the idea of taking the progression and the idea of rotation.
Though the form is completely controlled, it is not pre-meditated. The piece
both explains and conceals itself.

‘In the original two unit piece, I had hoped to imply the organisational
integrity of symmetry in an asymmetrical situation. I considered the new three
box piece both more surprising and more successful. However, taken as a whole,
the piece is still essentially 3 identical boxes. The title emphasises this
fact which it is almost impossible to recognise visually.

‘The piece was painted white so as not to draw attention to itself, and so
as to emphasise the complexity of shadows which play through the piece.
The textural quality of the paint is intended to relate the tactile
quality of the surface to the tactile meaning of the piece.

‘Despite the fact that there have been subsequent pieces employing the box
format and dealing with related ideas, I consider “3 identical boxes stacked”
to be the culmination of my work in that area. I have found it difficult to
develop directly from the piece, because it dominates my attempts to expand its

‘The most interesting piece it has given rise to is “Progression of  4 boxes stacked” (2019). This piece also deals with questions such as the relation of idea to form and symmetry/asymmetry.
However, it employs as its principal concern the fact, which was eliminated
from the 3 box piece, which is the addition of an identical box.

‘The boxes are constructed from ¾” birch plywood and are painted with
pale white paint containing some dust and dog hair. (Dulux, Brilliant white
matt emulsion. Before painting, the plywood was glued with PVA wood glue and
sanded (3M Super fine Silicon Carbide Abrasive Sheet).

‘The piece should be dated 2019.

‘There is an associated limited edition print collection titled “Print of 3
identical boxes stacked” which is of only 10 monochrome prints, and which was also
conceived in 2019. It was my intention to unite the content of the print with
its source material as closely as possible.

‘The prints are related to the piece only in the sense that they employ its
image. The prints, as their titles suggest, are primarily about the nature of
the printing procedure and especially their own production and the results of
this process.’

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