Two of New York’s best-known contemporary artists come to Baylor University on Thursday to speak about their art, though the invitation likely was a single one: They’re twin brothers.
Doug and Mike Starn, 56, have works exhibited around the world, in museums and galleries such as the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Pompidou Center in Paris.
While their collective style is distinctive, it’s also hard to characterize, spanning oversized photography, bamboo constructions and rough prints. Their works play with light, experiment with surfaces and stretch boundaries.
The Starns brothers come to Baylor as the featured artists of the Allbritton Art Institute’s Biennial Artist Conversation, which brought renowned New York artist Frank Stella to campus two years ago. As he did with Stella, arts journalist Jason Kaufman will lead the conversation and a slideshow illustrating their artwork.
“They’re very humble, low-key people, almost shy — I’ll have to draw them out,” Kaufman said in a recent phone interview.
The New Jersey-born Starns jumped into the international art world early on, thanks in large part to their participation in the prestigious Whitney Biennial in 1987. While young artists sometimes can’t capitalize on such early attention, the Starns continued to create and impress.
“These guys became so famous early in life and have constantly been innovating and elevating their art,” Kaufman said.
Starting in photography, the twins never limited their exploration of light and image to a two-dimensional fine print, creating oversized works pinned to the wall or images more rough and spontaneous than carefully detailed. “That’s one of the questions I plan to ask: How can something that looks so rough-hewn be so valuable?” Kaufman said.
Science and nature often provide the subject matter for the brothers’ art, using trees, snowflakes and moths as starting places to explore perception, dimension and reality. Light plays a crucial role in their work and the brothers occasionally raise questions of spirituality or religion.
The artists’ 2010 installation “Big Bambu: You Can’t, You Don’t and You Won’t Stop,” a walk-through forest of bamboo poles and scaffolding built on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art by a team of rock climbers, became one of their most famous pieces. It drew more than 630,000 visitors to the Met during its run, becoming one of the museum’s top 10 biggest draws, and spawned a series of similar installations in Italy, Japan and Israel.
A reception in the Waco Hall lobby will follow the conversation.