Corrections or additions?
This article by F.R. Rivera was prepared for the June 23, 2004
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Non-Linear Work from Off the Rim
Since the 35-acre sculpture park, Grounds for Sculpture (GFS), opened
in Hamilton in 1992, it has made its mark on the national sculpture
scene. Its permanent collection is excellent and growing with
thoughtful and important acquisitions. Its institutional mission casts
a wide net.
One of the GFS goals – perhaps not known by the public at large – is
support for sculptors who are organized in groups. For such groups GFS
with its considerable resources has played the welcome role of enabler
since 1992. According to Brooke Barrie, director/curator, GFS has
invited one or more groups to exhibit annually. Its inaugural
exhibition was timed to complement a national sculpture conference
meeting in Philadelphia. As the venue became more widely known,
proposals began to come in.
By 2001, when Grounds for Sculpture hosted a show by members of the
National Association of Women Artists, a tradition had been
established. The 2001 exhibition gave exposure to Devorah Sperber, who
showed a single piece entitled "Reflections," which so impressed me at
the time, that I wrote this single astonishing work was worth the trip
to GFS. Sperber, who had star quality then and has it now, re-creates
old master paintings using spools of colored thread as pixels. She
recently had a one-person show at the Chelsea McKenzie Gallery that
the New Yorker Magazine of May 31 placed on its "short list" of best
The current group exhibition, "Off the Rim" includes work by members
of the Pacific Rim Sculptors Group. If the show’s title sounds
suspiciously like "over-the-top," it is perhaps intended. This
sculpture has more than a little moxie and plenty of sizzle.
Due to its West Coast origins, the transportation for this exhibition
was far more complicated – and costly – than it has been for previous
shows, which involved a local drive in a rented truck from places like
Washington and New York. Several of the exhibitors pitched in to help
with the countless details – including fund-raising – that are
involved in mounting an exhibition.
This show has no single star like Sperber, but a dynamite cast of 34.
The show has a distinctive "made in California" feel. (The group’s
founders all lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay area.). In the
longstanding cultural rivalry between East and West Coast, the West
Coast wins this one. It is the best sculpture show by a group, that I
have seen during the past gallery season.
Because contemporary sculpture is ever more inclusive, it is not
surprising to find several outstanding pieces that feel like painting.
These wall-based works are by Laurie Polster, Pamela Merory Dernham,
Vickie Jo Sowell, and Jia Jun Lu. The most painterly of the lot,
however, is by Jane Woolverton.
Woolverton’s "Le Printemps" is a fragile tapestry of plastic loops
layered about five inches deep and embellished with color. These
loops, we realize, are recycled from the harnesses that once held six
cans together. That "gee-whiz" recognition is followed by a second
jolt of comprehension when all parts fuse into one shimmering field
right out of Claude Monet.
The show contains other delicious surprises. As we cruise through,
some creep up seductively, while others seem to say "Honk if you love
me!" These sculptors are aware of what has gone before in contemporary
sculpture. Part of the joy of these works is that they are so
Ama Torrance, for example, fabricates a seven-foot icon of a rabbit
that is somewhere between the cinematic Harvey and the work of
sculptor Jeff Koons. Her creation, called "Silly Bunny," has his big
feet planted firmly on the floor while his hands (paws) are tied
behind his back. Torrance writes, "Silly Bunny is a very mischievous
boy. I’m not really sure what he did or who caught him at it. It may
have just been kinky sex, or maybe grand larceny or murder. You never
know with him. He’s always up to something." What would you expect
from a seven-foot rabbit?
What William Wareham is "up to" with his massive painted steel
"Juliaca" is a nostalgic look back to the 1960s and the sculpture of
David Smith and Anthony Caro. This is a rugged, ambitious work of
welded steel, filling eight to ten cubic feet of space.
Ann Weber’s works are tall – just under 16 feet – and they rise like
drunken minarets. They are fabricated almost entirely from cardboard
and staples; and they are lighter than most of the smaller works in
the show. In the heavy, but smaller, department are cast iron,
palm-sized monoliths by Lynn Todaro, called "N.O.S.L. Poems."
Size, materials, and attitudes are about as diverse as can be
imagined. In a catalog statement on his own work, Stan Huncilman also
sums up the exhibition as a whole: "Linear thinking stops here."
The show includes several artists whose politics is right out there –
if not in your face, at least in the rear view mirror. Protest art has
begun to re-emerge in this new century and is a force to be reckoned
with, as it was in the 1930s and 1970s. These sculptors are measured
and focused in expressing their concerns.
Masako Onodera, for instance, is obsessed with the results of
genetically modified food, such as corn. In a piece entitled "Too
Yellow to Eat," the artist warns that human interference with nature
is both curious and fearful
The sculptors in this group, like Nuala Creed, are also, by degrees,
shedding their reluctance to express their convictions. She writes:
"In October of 2002, I was invited to make an ornament for the White
House Christmas tree. . . All artists were asked to make a native bird
from their state. . . While I was honored to be invited to submit my
work to the White House, I wished I could have sent the president a
message of how I felt about some of his policies . . . These nine
hummingbirds represent the one I wish I could have sent."
Her work might be called "Humvee Bird Gun Ships," as each bird carries
a warhead. Her title is "Presidential Squadron." Unlike the anonymous
artist who caused a security flap at the Metropolitan and Guggenheim
Museums recently with his hit-and-run image of President Bush in front
of a field of American currency, Creed is now more than willing to
acknowledge her authorship.
Like Creed, Dixie Brown of Kentfield, California, has created a fleet
of warheads. They might be facsimiles of smart missiles if they were
not so intentionally dumb and lumpy-looking, like bloated sausages.
They are encased in hand-knitted garments. Brown writes, "Objects made
of fleece and yarn carry strong associations with caring for, and
protecting human life. Paradoxically, ‘protection’ is used as a
rationale to destroy lives by explosion . . ." Her "missiles" are
suspended by barely visible fish line, as they lumber absurdly toward
their programmed targets.
Curator Barrie told me that Brown, who attended the gala opening, met
a gentleman there who told her he really appreciated her work. He was
– she learned – a retired Air Force colonel.
– F. R. Rivera
Off the Rim: Selections from the Pacific Rim Sculptors Group, Museum
and Domestic Arts Building, Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds
Road, Hamilton. 609-586-0616. Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed
Monday. Through September 26.
Bridge Players Theater Company seeks female actors for Nunsense to be
produced in October. Auditions are Sunday, July 11, and Tuesday, July
13, at 7 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church Hall, 638 Parry Avenue,
Palmyra. Singing and dancing Call 609-267-1253 or visit
Randy James Dance Works seeks one female dancer for a full-time
company position beginning in September. Productions are in Italy,
Russia, Denmark, New York, and New Jersey. For information,
212-625-8369 or visit www.rjdw.org.
Mighty Oak Players seeks submissions from directors for its upcoming
season. Send resume with a list of shows you would like to direct to
Mighty Oak Players, Play Selection Committee, Box 6300, Monroe
H.O.P.E. Helping Other People Evolve offers a 10-week education and
support program for recently widowed men and women of all ages
beginning in July. Day and/or evening meetings are available. Call
888-920-2201 for information.
Master Gardener of Mercer County is accepting applications for a
training program beginning the end of September. Trainees receive over
60 hours of instruction in a wide variety of horticultural subjects.
Classes meet Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Trenton. $150. Call
609-989-6830 for information.
Hopewell Valley Central High School seeks members of the Class of 1974
for a reunion on July 10 at Triumph in New Hope. Call Lynn Muentener
at 609-466-0914 or E-mail Classof74Reunion@aol.com.
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