Cornelia Parker, Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson), 1999. Charcoal, wire, pins, and nails, 144 × 60 × 72 inches (365.8 × 152.4 × 182.9 cm). Gift of Barbara Lee, The Barbara Lee Collection of Art by Women. Photo by Charles Mayer Photography. © Cornelia Parker
Cornelia Parker is known for her poetic transformation of existing materials, which she achieves through processes that are both physical and conceptual. With an elegant sculptural hand she constructs works that function as richly evocative metaphors.
Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson) is an outstanding example of Parker’s suspended sculptures. This major installation piece is constructed from the charred residue of an actual case of suspected arson. Here, Parker uses the materials as found, without transforming their physical nature. Yet in her hands, they constitute a spectacular explosion of form in space as the once-glowing, now-blackened embers are precisely hung to create a forest of charcoal fragments. Parker’s sculpture can be considered formally in relation to the rich tradition of recent British sculpture, by artists ranging from Richard Long to Tony Cragg. It also captures the forensic fascination evident in so much of Parker’s work, evoking through its title the malicious intent of an arsonist, making her sculpture the perfect vehicle for both dazzling visual experience and vivid imaginings.
Cornelia Parker’s major ICA/Boston show in 2000 proved to be a landmark exhibition for both the artist and the institution. Parker’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States, it won critical accolades and popular attention in Boston and reached still wider audiences on a national tour. Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson) marks this important moment in the ICA’s history.