Scott Kip, Illuminated Structures

Marginal Utility

Showing through July 29th

By Daniel Gerwin




Or say that the end precedes the beginning,

And the end and the beginning were always there

Before the beginning and after the end.

And all is always now.

Burnt Norton, T.S. Elliot


Out of the north windows of his studio Scott Kip used to look at an old cooling tower on the roof of a Ridge Avenue soap factory. Though he knew it was a large structure, it appeared flat from every viewpoint.  The cooling tower is now dismantled and gone.


For Illuminated Structures, Kip’s current show at Marginal Utility, he has constructed three sets of three wonderfully intricate model wooden towers, all about two and a half feet tall, presented in a succession of three separate rooms.  Each trio is titled Past, Present, and Future and is arranged in a line on a long pedestal. In the first two rooms a single red thread runs through the three towers to mark a sightline that is realized in the final set, making it possible to look straight through the last three models.  The miniature towers in the beginning room are the simplest, the second room holds a more developed set, and in the third room the towers are evolved to a state of considerable complexity.  These last three models contain partially hidden mirrors revealing the interior construction, and the middle tower holds a clockwork that cannot be seen directly, but its ticking is audible.  Lit from above, a platform in this center tower captures the shadow of the clock’s gears spinning and its hands slowly turning, a moving picture of startling beauty.


Kip has long been exploring our perception of time.  As a student at The University of the Arts, he was inspired by Burnt Norton, a meditation on time that opens T.S. Elliot’s Four Quartets.  Kip built cabinets that exposed phosphorescent paint to light from a flash filtered through a positive transparency, creating a glowing image in the paint that faded away even as you looked at it.  These disappearing images placed the viewer acutely in the moment, measuring temporal experience on the level of seconds.  Kip majored in woodworking, acquiring the technical skills needed for the marvelous workmanship that rewards close and prolonged inspection of his miniature towers.


Though we know time is moving and dimensional, it appears flat to us from every angle because our senses are attuned to only one frequency: the present. We access the past through memory and the future through imagination. Picasso and Braque created cubism in part to posit a vision that sees an object from all sides and all angles at once, escaping the limitations of classical perspective.  Kip pulls off a similar trick, with the middle tower of each trio standing for the present and the past and future represented by the two mostly symmetrical side towers.  Like standing at your ancestor’s grave with your children by your side, Kip’s miniature towers coax us outside our one-dimensional experience into the vast simultaneity of past, present, and future.



Daniel’s paintings can currently be seen in two group shows in New York: Natural/Constructed Spaces at The Painting Center in Manhattan, and Matter at The Brooklyn Artists Gym in Brooklyn.