October 2012

Art in Print

Material Assumptions: Paper as Dialogue

By Courtney R. Thompson

Columbia College commissioned Specimen’s Ian Schneller to participate in a special exhibition titled Material Assumptions: Paper as Dialogue. For the exhibition, contemporary artists were asked to create new work using abaca and cotton paper handmade by graduate students of the college’s Center for Book and Paper Arts.

The exhibit was reviewed in Art in Print, a bi-monthly journal and website devoted to the history, theory and culture of the print. The piece leads off with a great review of Ian’s submission to the show, a pair of White Hornlet Audio Speakers made from abaca paper and mounted on clear acrylic bases.

Specimen Custom Paper Hornlet Audio Speakers

“Material Assumptions” is a provocation to reconsider paper specifically handmade paper, and its potential to support, hold and challenge form. The exhibition was developed through an independent study graduate course at Chicago’s Columbia College led by Jessica Cochran, who with co-curators Elizabeth Isakson-Dado, Hannah King, and C.J. Mace, invited more than a dozen artists to imagine new artworks to be made from abaca and cotton paper by graduate students at Columbia. These commissioned pieces complement the second part of the exhibition that showcases the work of artists in residence at Dieu Donne, a New York-based non-profit paper workshop that has been providing opportunities for artists to engage with the process of handmade paper since 1976.

Ian Schneller’s White Hornlets is a wonderful introduction to the premise of the show. Schneller is the man behind Specimen Products, a company that originated out of his sculptural work in the early 1980s. As a producer of guitars, amplifiers and speakers, the company is a testament to innovative acoustic aesthetics and experimentation in technology and design. Here Schneller’s iconic speaker horns are made from handmade paper, resulting in the ethereal white horns atop acrylic cubed bases. They assert clarity, transparency and purity, conceptually aligning themselves with a criterion of desired sound performance. Additionally, there were intriguing parallels between ancient formal histories of the horn as a vessel for sound amplification and paper as a carrier of information. While the form was a familiar one for Schneller, the properties of the handmade paper were new, as the horns are usually constructed out of “recycled newsprint, baking soda and dryer lint,” and the change in material forced a shift in aesthetics.

Read the rest of the review by clicking the images below.

Art In Print Magazine Feature about Specimen Horn SpeakersArt In Print Magazine Feature about Specimen Horn Speakers