Art21 Extended Play

Allan McCollum | “Shapes Copper Cookie Cutters”


Larry Little, co-founder of Aunt Holly’s Copper Cookie Cutters with his wife Holly, describes his experiences working with artist Allan McCollum on the Shapes from Maine (2009) exhibition at Friedrich Petzel Gallery in New York. Little describes the origins of his home business in Trescott, Maine, the process he developed for making cookie cutters by hand, and his working relationship with McCollum.

This project can currently be seen at Murray Guy gallery in New York through February 2010, as part of the exhibition Vertically Integrated Manufacturing including works by Francis Alÿs, Carl Andre, Fia Backström, Bernd & Hilla Becher, DAS INSTITUT, Dexter Sinister, Douglas Huebler, Stephen Prina, and Seth Price. “The works in this show put their own conditions of production on display, responding to and perhaps even anticipating changing processes of labor. If art has the capacity to bridge sensory experience and abstract thought, it might be uniquely suited to reflect on an economy that increasingly blurs differences between physical goods and immaterial services, and confuses distinctions between production and consumption.” (via the press release)

Applying strategies of mass production to hand-made objects, Allan McCollum’s labor-intensive practice questions the intrinsic value of the unique work of art. McCollum’s installations—fields of vast numbers of small-scale works, systematically arranged—are the product of many tiny gestures, built up over time. Viewing his work often produces a sublime effect as one slowly realizes that the dizzying array of thousands of identical-looking shapes is, in fact, comprised of subtly different, distinct things. Engaging assistants, scientists, and local craftspeople in his process, McCollum embraces a collaborative and democratic form of creativity.

Allan McCollum is featured in the Season 5 (2009) episode Systems of the Art:21—Art in the Twenty-First Century television series on PBS.

VIDEO | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Dowling. Camera: Richard Kane & Joel Shapiro. Sound: Kenny Weinberg. Editor: Lizzie Donahue & Paulo Padilha. Artwork Courtesy: Allan McCollum. Thanks: Holly & Larry Little.