"It was easier when it was just Aaron." "I'm OK with it." "Story time."
If the titles of sculptor Adam Brent's artworks sound like bits of overheard dialogue from everyday life, it's no accident. Working with household items and inspired by architectural forms, Brent creates sculpture exploring the hidden emotional life of the family unit. One piece, The Ballad of Crook Horn Road, features potted plants placed on cantilevered structures that call to mind suburban A-frame houses. Another work, Colt, presents two horse figurines—an industrially manufactured version and a rough, handmade one—with one astride the other, suggesting the tension between the ideal and the real.
"I comment on what happens in the home and what it means to create and maintain a home," says Brent, who earned his MFA from Parsons in 2001 and is currently the Vice Provost for Curriculum and Learning.
Brent's sculptures embody new viewpoints and modes of artistic expression, even when his focus lies beyond the domestic sphere. His work with the BroLab collective, which he founded with other participants in the Bronx Museum's Artists in the Marketplace program, explores urban themes rather than domestic life. In the performance piece Pump 14, the group's members laboriously moved water from the East River to the Hudson using pumps and buckets, prompting a dialogue about resources in the urban environment. BroLab recently finished another urban public artwork, this time for the New York City Department of Transportation. Called Humps and Bumps, the piece references the familiar black-and-yellow traffic speed bumps. The collective was also praised by the New York City Council for Piazza Gratissima, its Kickstarter-funded project to build a courtyard for the Mott Haven Library in the Bronx. The project is a collaboration with local residents; unemployed workers from the community will help construct it. And Brent recently completed an installation for Amplify Action, an exhibition and series of events exploring sustainability at Brooklyn's Skylight Gallery.
Brent shares with his students at Parsons the artistic implications of his provocations and collaborations. He encourages students to work together on art that investigates often-ignored aspects of the urban experience. Brent's students have brought art outside the classroom and gallery; they recently participated in the Art in Odd Places festival, held annually in Manhattan. In homage to Brent's collective, BroLab, some of his students named their own group Brodigy.
Brent instills respect for the collaborative experience in future generations of artists at Parsons. "As a student, I learned to work with others at Parsons," says Brent. "I wouldn't be in a collective if I hadn't started here."