Life-Size Graphite Skeleton Draws Itself Into Oblivion

Jack Fischer Gallery
Jack Fischer Gallery / Jack Fischer Gallery

If the news cycle has got you down, we’ve got some good news: Someday, we’ll all be dead and gone and none of this will matter. If that sentence was actually comforting for you, you’re going to love artist Agelio Batle’s “Ash Dancer,” a full-size graphite skeleton that gradually vanishes like the point of a person-shaped pencil.

The San Francisco-based artist works in all kinds of media, from sculpture and painting to installation and performance art. He describes “Ash Dancer” as a form of “material investigative work,” partially inspired by his love of science and nature.

Batle’s choice of graphite as a medium is doubly significant. Graphite is best known as the stuff of pencil “lead,” and indeed many of the drawings accompanying “Ash Dancer” on display at the Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco were done in graphite. But the mineral is also a part of the planet, naturally occurring in igneous and metamorphic rocks. In an ashes-to-ashes, dust-to-dust path, Batle’s graphite was removed from the earth only to take the shape of disintegrating human remains.

And the skeleton will disintegrate; Batle’s made sure of it. “Ash Dancer” will be hung just above a moving, paper-covered table. As the graphite bones bump against the table, the soft mineral will transfer to the paper, dissolving the body even as it creates a visual record of its own demise.

The skeleton is not Batle’s first work in graphite. Previous projects have included ephemeral feathers, hands, leaves, and animals, some of which are available in his online shop.

“Ash Dancer” will be on display at the Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco from November 5 to December 29, 2016.

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