Phoebe Washburn

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Phoebe Washburn (born 1973) is an American installation artist who lives and works in New York.Washburn is best known for producing large-scale installations: assemblages of garbage, detritus, cardboard, scrap wood, and, more recently, organic matter such as sod or plants.


She holds a BFA from Tulane University and an MFA from School of Visual Arts. Her work has been exhibited around the world at Institute of Contemporary Art 2007, Deutsche Guggenheim 2007 and Whitney Biennial 2008. She is represented by Zach Feuer Gallery in New York.

Washburn is a process-based artist. She creates installations with help of assistants, due to the colossal size and labor-intensive methods she requires. Processes are architectural in nature including stacking, blinding, nailing, etc. The pieces tend to look organic, mirroring the processes, but also have that haphazard, precarious appeal as they are often stacked up with chairs or other props. The overall resulting work is reliant on the gallery space. Washburn dubs this 'spontaneous architecture' and continues by adding:

"My sculptures depend a lot on the spaces where they are shown because they often are anchored into the wall but chance is definitely more of a factor in the final product than is any predetermined design. I just let the structures evolve by repeating the same action again and again. The process has a slightly neurotic element in that it involves adding little behavior habits. As silly as it sounds, I often feel as if my assistants and I are beavers building a dam. The shapes are less about form than they are about the activity involved in amassing and assembling the forms."

A sample installation, Vacational Trappings and Wildlife Worries (exhibited during the summer of 2007 at Philadelphia's Institute of Contemporary Art) involved the creation of a "barrel-vaulted walkway made from hundreds of scrap-wood pieces" featuring several niches containing water, shrimp, snails, aquatic plants, and small objects, yiedling what Washburn called a 'poor man's aquarium'.[1]

An earlier work, Heavy Has Debt, (exhibited in 2003 in Grinnell, Iowa), was a "massive, shingled wall of debris," produced largely from mounted cardboard.[2]

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