American, born 1965
Mittal Steel No. 1 Shipping 192-208, 2009
Latex and enamel paint
Dimensions variable (site installation)
Evelyn Rumsey Carey, George Carey, Charles Clifton Funds, and Charles Clifton Fund, by exchange, 2009
During a visit to Buffalo, New York, to plan the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's first Artist-in-Residence program, Ingrid Calame was immediately attracted to the numbers that were painted and repainted for more than eighty years on the floor at the ArcelorMittal steel plant. Calame is a Los Angeles–based artist best known for tracing stains and other evidence of human presence left on the ground, and then layering the tracings from different sites into colored pencil drawings and abstract paintings. It took a team of twelve tracers, directed by Calame, nearly a week of battling the plant's heat, and wearing required safety goggles, kneepads, steel toe boots, and protective sleeves, to trace hundreds of feet of floor, resulting in Mittal Steel No. 1 Shipping 192-208.
The finished wall painting wrapped a gallery room from floor to ceiling with a shimmering silver-on-gray painting of the ArcelorMittal tracings. As the viewer moves around the carefully lighted space, the reflections on the metallic paint reveal and then conceal the painted numbers themselves, footprints of now absent workers, and tire tracks of machinery long gone. The steel mill closed its doors for good in April 2009, eight months after Calame's team traced its history. Calame says, "the traced numbers, paint, and cracks, like individual workers in a factory, have retained their integrity, but have stopped short of being symbols—they are captured images that combine history, physical fact, decay, memory, and personal experience."