Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Sampling of the Bresler Collection

On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., I stopped into the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery to see A Revolution in Wood: The Bresler Collection. It is an exhibit of sixty-six world class turned and sculpted wood art pieces generously donated to the Smithsonian by Fleur and Charles Bresler.

This first piece is Table Bracelet (1997) by Michelle Holzapfel is made with birch, maple, cherry, and brass. It was created as part of a series in which she made jewelry for the home and included a seven by eleven foot wall mounted Spiral Necklace. I like both the humor of the concept and the scale. I guess all art can be seen as jewelry for the home but the overtness of this work makes the idea more clear. I also like how it humanizes in animate objects and helps you to see them as worthy of adornment. Why not buy jewelry for a table, or chair, or even a whole building?

David Ellsworth had a few great pieces in the exhibit, including Mo's Delight (1993), a beautiful futuristic spheroidal sculpture made with curly white oak (left) and Sundown Pot (1995), an equally beautiful but more minimalist turning made with curly maple (right).
His radically different piece, Patan (1991), was also in the exhibit. It is a naturally warped vase that has been charred and brightly painted. For what ever reason I expected this piece to be pretty small after having seen an image of it on a recent cover of AmericanStyle magazine, so I was surprised to find it is actually around 18" high.
Here is the backside. Nothing subtle about it and the exhibit text said that it caused a big uproar in the turning community -- a type of "Dylan goes electric" moment. As a lover of Dylan's electric work, I think this was done with equal success. Sometimes people just need to be shaken up a bit and unexpected art is a great way to do it.
This is Stoney Lamar's Self Portrait (1992), made with box elder, a wood that I love for its light color and streaks of pink and red. I don't know Stoney, so shouldn't guess as to how or why this is a self-portrait, but I gather from the piece that he is a little off-center with both rough and refined edges.
Edward Moulthrop's maple Donut Bowl (1990) seems to beg to be touched.
Mike Shuler's Satinwood Bowl #458 (1989) is made with satinwood, bloodwood, amaranth, and finished with a shellac french polish. I'm a little confused as to where or how the amaranth was used in the piece, whether as a seed or the fiber was somehow integrated.
Mark Sfirri's Rejections From The Bat Factory (1996), made with mahogany, cherry, curly maple, zebrawood, cocobolo, and lacewood, also display's a great sense of humor. He uses a multi-axis turning technique to make them. Conceptually, I understand what that means but the result is still magic.
This trompe l'oeil Petrified Sewing Basket (1995) was made with cherry, wenge, and imbuia by Lincoln Seitzman. The piece makes me wonder what drew him to making a basket out of wood or why he thought he could do it. The result is a remarkable "reproduction" of the woven inspiration.
Galen Carpenter made this unique vase, 96-4 (1996), with cristobal and chipboard. It is interesting how he combined a rare and luxurious tropical wood with a very common, inexpensive, construction material to create an unexpectedly elegant piece. The chipboard gives it a painterly effect that seems much closer to a glazed piece of pottery than a wood turning.
Bud Latven's Integration (1992) is made with maple and African blackwood. It is interesting to see one of his early pieces which gives some perspective and hint of the direction he would take in making his absolutely insane current work.
Norm Sartorius is famous for his unusual art spoons and there were four of them in this exhibit. The three that I was able to get good images of are Mutation (1999), made with Mexican blue oak burl (bottom left), Obsession (1998), made with maple (top left); and Spear Spoon (1997), made with African blackwood (right).
I had no idea that there was a whole craft/sculpture sub-genre of art spoons until I read Norm's article on Norman Steven's spoon collection in Forum (July 2010), the Collectors of Wood Art newsletter. It is very much like the craft/sculpture sub-genre of art teapots. In both cases artists use a functional object as a starting point to create objects of beauty that only vaguely reference their conceptual origins. These are endearing small sculptures, allowing something elegant to be created out of small pieces of wood that would likely not otherwise have a use, other than for its BTU value.

The exhibit will be on view until January 30, 2011 and is very much worth the full viewing if you are in the Washington, DC area. However, regardless of when you may be in DC, the Renwick Gallery is always worth a visit. It is my favorite museum and they always have great work rotating through their permanent collection on the second floor. Below is a video made by the Smithsonian to give an overview and background of the collection. The best line is at the beginning when Fleur says that "You get a flutter in your heart, and when you get it you'd better buy the piece because you're gonna dream about it." Yes, don't argue with your response to art, just buy it!

No comments:

Post a Comment