Jim Skuldt


Jim Skuldt, photo: William Short

JIM SKULDT: A Very Inhospitable Environment

I became aware of Jim Skuldt's practice in relation to a website titled Hey, You Dropped Something, which he launched in 2009 in order in order to document, in forensic detail, the egregious trash-dumping ways of his neighbors in the Cypress Park area of Los Angeles. At around the same time, he also took it upon himself to shelter (and neuter) a local colony of stray cats, with which he proceeded to collaborate on a series of scratching-pad "paintings." Just prior to this, Skuldt managed to acquire Neil Diamond's traveling UFO-style stage set from the 1990s, which he continues to repurpose into a series of installations that conflate the Zen-inflected phenomenology of the light-and-space movement with gaudy showbiz decor. As it happens, Skuldt's move to Cypress Park was compelled by the extravagant spatial requirements of Diamond’s Gesamtkunstwerk. These were met in a disused cold storage facility in a part of town still safely out of range of encroaching regeneration, a "very inhospitable environment," in the artist's own words. Iceland is the name he would give it, and there Skuldt went on to mount a series of events—notably for the 2008 California Biennial—under the rubric, at once prosaic and poetic, Cold-Based Operations.

One decision determines the next, forming a narrative chain of actions and objects that gains in momentum as it extends toward its always unknown, increasingly far-flung but also inevitable end. In all of this there is a measure of risk, and at every stage this seems to mount as well. Since 2006 Skuldt's main focus has been a project that involves adapting a standard twenty-foot shipping container to serve as his own live-work space on an international journey, whether by boat, train, or truck. Once completed, this piece should be seen, first of all, as a sculptural proposition that incorporates its maker, thereby recalling such works as Chris Burden's Five-Day Locker Piece (1971) and Bas Jan Ader's In Search of the Miraculous (1973–75) in all their potentially self-sabotaging precariousness. But it will also amount to a stand-alone feat of ingenious engineering that answers to a variety of pressing social and environmental issues. This is a tremendously complex undertaking in terms of space management, making maximal use of available resources while producing minimal waste. Just consider the problem of plumbing in closed confines; it is something to which Skuldt has devoted a great deal of thought and has resolved in a manner that could have wider application.

For those left-leaning individuals invested in reducing their carbon footprint via "micro living," as well as for those who are more right-leaning and busily shoring up their basements for the end times, this artist proffers no end of design solutions—but, to be frank, Skuldt has never been one to build a "better mousetrap." His contribution to the C.O.L.A. exhibition, designed and executed in tandem with his sculpture class at UCLA, which he swiftly converted to his cause, consists of a series of modules for the retrofitted container, each coming at the challenge from a different perspective. It is a reminder that the functionalist aspects of this work are substantially leavened with, and slyly undone by, its idiosyncratic aspects. The narrative line previously mentioned is one that I would characterize as comedic inasmuch as it testifies to a stubborn willfulness that never descends into tragic megalomania. Comedy, as a heroic mode, involves a kind of grace under pressure, never the ideal balance but rather the ability to withstand resistance, and moreover to triumph, precisely because it understands itself as quixotic from the first moment.

—Jan Tumlir

Jim Skuldt
Born 1970 USA
Lives and works in Los Angeles

MFA, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, 2005
BS, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1994
Université de Nantes, France, 1991–92

Selected Exhibitions
2013 Island Effects, Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA (solo)
2013 Endless Bummer II, Marlborough Chelsea, New York (group)
2011 The Long Range/CROP CIRCLE (Int’l) CAKE PLUG, LTD Los Angeles (group/solo)
2010 WILD BLUE, Splace, Fernsehturm (TV Tower), Berlin (solo)
2008 2008 California Biennial, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA (group)
2007 Enlarge Your Practice, Friche la Belle de Mai, Marseille, France (group)

Selected Bibliography
Martens, Anne. "Jim Skuldt, Mapping, Graphing and Diagramming." Artillery, November 5, 2013.
Rose, Sean James. "Les jeux sont défaits." La Libération (Paris), August 29, 2007.
Yank, Susan Bell. "Jim Skuldt" (interview). 2008 California Biennial, 192–93. Newport Beach, CA: Orange County Museum of Art, 2008.

Artist's Website