FORM AND MATTER
While form can exist independently in the mind of the artist, the material or matter is also an integral defining element of the work. This is the concept Dailey explored in Form and Matter (1974), a series of installations in which he took two raw forms of nature, one hard and one soft, and positioned them to posit a dialectical relationship. Each of these materials was taken from the first stage of the post harvesting process (tree timbers in their rough-cut form and cotton battings processed from raw cotton combined into sheets of rough form) and recycled from its original intended purpose: the wood from construction supports and the cotton from the internal batting for bed mattresses.
Built on the dialectical treatment of form and matter, Form and Matter also explores the role of the artist in the causal process. The first level cause of the materials is found in their original functional purpose – construction support versus human support. Thus in these installations, Dailey reasserted the artist’s role by reusing the materials and setting up a dialectical tension of purpose or function. In other words, the artist caused these materials to express a form or outcome for which they were not intended and thus gave them a new existence.