CONSTRUCTIONS ( prints available at https://www.artmajeur.com/jeffautomann ) is a photographic series showing combinations of various elements I have made and/or sometimes with a background from the real world such as a parking lot. I try to limit editing of the photographs to cropping and adjusting exposure, though occasionally I may change the colour a bit as in STARRY NIGHT. I think of the images as a record of pieces that for the most part do not really exist beyond the moment they were photographed. Obviously the images that combine my work and “real” backgrounds are ephemeral, but I may choose for various reasons not to permanently assemble some of these constructions.
VILE NIRUS: one of the CONSTRUCTIONS series of sculptures made in the studio. The background layered steel sculpture is made from car seat springs, separator plates from an automatic transmission and old roofing. As with all my work, I extensively manipulate the materials to get the feel I want. The mask is called DETROIT DEMON and is made from car parts. The horn is made from a woven metal that comes from the exhaust. The skeleton is small metal car parts. One of the great things about working with steel is that I can use magnets to hold the pieces in position.
WERNER: Constructed in the studio from my mask, MAESTRO, along with a fabric body and a background sculpture of mine, AUTOPUDDLE. The recycled steel mask is made from several oil pans and finished with a sanded paint surface. AUTOPUDDLE is made entirely from manual clutch parts. The fabric has seen several lives already as part of earlier painting experiments and most recently as a sign for an open house. I reuse/recycle as much as possible.
RUINED HIGHWAY: For whatever reason, I am fascinated by the way tar breaks down, which is really part of my fascination with the way nature is always working at turning our fabricated materials to dust. Here, the mask, MOUDIT made from recycled car parts and finished with rust and sanded paint is paired with a skeleton made from smaller car parts including flattened windshield wiper blades. They are assembled in the parking lot of an abandoned warehouse. Fort Erie, Ontario where I live has lots of abandoned structures and places including an airport., so I have a rich palette to work with. I work mostly with car parts as I think there are far too many cars in the world.
MOUDIT’S WORLD: Some of the CONSTRUCTION series are not created in the studio, but are constructed on a site that seems particularly interesting to me. I took the mask, MOUDIT with an accompanying skeleton to an abandoned warehouse and shot MOUDIT against a worn concrete wall. It is the feeling of depth and the indicators of a history in the concrete that interested me. All the CONSTRUCTION series are based on my masks which are constructed from car parts. MOUDIT’s finish is a mix of sanded paint and rust. The skeleton was formed from flattened windshield wiper assemblies and other odd car parts. Shooting on site is a bit difficult; I load all the components, camera and tripod onto my scooter and in my backpack, pray for the weather to cooperate and that it not get too windy.
STARRY NIGHT: One of my masks and skeletons shot on an abandoned warehouse wall and then coloured digitally, so it is a hybrid in the CONSTRUCTION series. Just as I am attracted to and respond to primarily car parts when making my pieces, I am attracted to surfaces in our world such as this background wall that reflects years of wear and nature’s glacial work of returning its components to dust. Setting up a CONSTRUCTION in the outside world is difficult. First, I’m used to using a shipping container to work in where I can use magnets to arrange almost everything (some car parts are aluminum–where is an aluminum magnet?), so I have to bring fishing line, nails, tape, sticky stuff with me on the scooter when on go for a “shoot”. Secondly, I like the challenge of using surfaces that I don’t control, like the aged metal surface I wanted to use that had a little spilled white paint on it, etc. All of this takes time and Fort Erie, where I live, seldom has extended periods of calm weather. The mask, LEOPARD, is made of aluminum valve bodies from an automatic transmission which have been extensively altered. While I’m not a big fan of digitally altering images, this time I just wanted the image to feel like it was night so that the dings in the wall looked like stars.
JINGO: Sculptures in the construction series usually have 3 parts: a mask, a skeleton and a background layered sculpture. Here MOUDIT is the mask. Quite enigmatic MOUDIT’s presence changes with different backgrounds; here he is fierce to me, the background being rather US patriotic. The skeleton is made from flattened windshield wiper parts and clutch pieces. The central component in this sculpture and the one that I initially responded to is an interior panel from a car door. The steel is extensively worked. I used paint to highlight the indentations in the panel. I approach working with car parts by responding to them rather than imposing my will on them. Narration/representation may ultimately be part of the work, but it arrives late in the creative process.
HALLOW: Central to all the CONSTRUCTION series is a mask. Here the mask is HAGUS, constructed from automobile oil pans, torque converter parts and clutch springs. The variegated surface is composed of layers of oil based paint which is lightly sanded to give this appearance. The skeleton, made of flattened windshield wiper parts has a similar surface. HAGUS and skeleton are placed on one of my large layered pieces called, HOLSTEIN SPRING made from car seat springs (alas, these are rare these days having been replaced with foam), separator plates from an automatic transmission and old metal roofing.
SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE…: The background sculpture, PERSEPOLIS has a base of rusty culvert that elicits the gradual decay of our constructed world to dust. The other aluminum parts in that sculpture are small engine and car parts cut and ground to fit the topography of the rusty culvert. The mask, SNAPPER, is made from clutch and torque converter parts; the skeleton from small car parts including flattened windshield wiper parts. This is not “found” art in that I seek out particular parts and then manipulate them extensively. I see the process as responding to the parts, their essence, and I follow where they lead.
SMOG: While shooting at an abandoned warehouse, I came across the painted concrete base of a lamppost which had been painted multiple times and then abandoned to the vagaries of decomposition–irresistible to me. I had masks and skeletons with me for the shoot, no easy task carrying it all on my scooter. Moudit seemed appropriate for this shot since, to me, he is the most enigmatic of my masks. I create sculptural constructions either at my studio or as in this case, remotely and then take photographs of them The title came to me later as the yellow paint reminded me of sulfur dioxide. The mask is made from car parts with a rust and sanded paint finish. The skeleton is made from small car parts including flattened windshield wiper assembly parts. The lamppost is courtesy of an abandoned Beer Store building.
DISSONANCE: A construction of a mask, a layered sculpture and a skeleton– all of which I created using car parts and some shovels. The mask, HOPPER, is made mostly from shovels. Shovels, because I love the shapes that they are stamped into giving me an excellent starting point from which to manipulate them into a mask. This mask’s plainness is a play on the artist by that name. A skeleton of various car parts including teeth from a clutch diaphragm spring, and flattened windshield wiper parts is added to the mask and that assembly is then placed on one of my layered steel sculptures. This one is PETRO-CANYON. I used Ford oil pans as headlands, automatic transmission valve bodies as water and various small parts as petroglyphs. Here, this combination evokes confusion.
BLACKBEARD: Mounted on one of my layered metal sculptures, PETRO-CANYON where the deepest layer is water-like patterns derived from spraying paint through the automatic transmission parts that I had sliced thin. The middle layer capitalizes on the mass production of car parts. In this case, it’s five oil pans from four wheel drive trucks. The shapes remind me of headlands. The top layer is a delicate arrangement of car part artifacts linked together with thin rod and suspended over the landscape. The articulated joints in the skeleton are from a VW van engine–incredibly beautiful and also THIN (welding them was difficult). The mask, SPOCK, is made mostly from shovels. I enjoy cutting and rejoining them to create convex shapes. I brought these three elements together to make this piece.
ABOUT TO BE OBLITERATED (ATBO): Started with a mask, LEOPARD. The mask started with a response to the beautiful aluminum parts in an automatic transmission and the response eventually grew into a leopard. Far from being “found” art, I work my materials extensively, in this case, taking two similarly shaped parts, making identical cuts in each to form the face, I then sliced them to make them thinner, ground the surface down on the edges to “soften” the look and painted and sponged them to accent the texture. The background is one of my layered metal sculptures made from manual clutch parts and the skeleton is a mix of smaller car parts including flattened windshield wiper blades.
HIGH ROLLER: Composed of 3 separate sculptures, the mask–LOCOLOBO (aka EGON because he reminds me in certain constructions of Schiele), a skeleton constructed of flattened windshield parts, and a large background sculpture (two layers of an unfinished layered piece). The mask is constructed of car parts and finished with a variegated surface of sanded paint; the skeleton is finished similarly. The background is constructed of transmission filter housings and stators from torque converters. The yellow and black bits are valves from a transmission. I feel privileged to use these beautiful and complex parts. Using them, I feel, requires responding to them rather than imposing my will on them.
DETROITUS: Here, I felt that the mask, SOLOMON, with an accompanying skeleton worked well with a background of leaves. These windblown leaves along the shore of the Niagara River seemed particularly fitting. The mask is made from car parts and shovels–the materials I use almost exclusively for masks. Though there is a feel of “found art” to this piece, the process of making this mask is anything but. In particular, I used sections cut from a torque converter to shape the eye sockets. This requires making a template to mark where the cuts should be made on the torque converter shell to get the curves that suggest an eye socket. When I vary the angle, the length and the location of the cuts, I find a variety of “emotions” in the mask which are in turn affected by the background.