Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Asheville Trip Part III - Blue Spiral 1

The third wood art show that I saw in Asheville back in August was Wood Moving Forward at Blue Spiral 1, a beautiful gallery representing southern artists in a sprawling 15,000 square foot, three level space. This show was the most diverse in styles and scale of the three I saw on that day.

Bob Trotman had three larger than life busts of some very emotionally tortured individuals. This piece, Double Portrait of John, was my favorite. I had thought that the cutout sections might be draws so I asked at the desk and they were kind enough to demonstrate that the face could be changed.
Double Portrait of John
wood, tempera, wax, steel
Bob Trotman
By pulling out the large pin in the top of John's head (on the right side below), the eyes and mouth can be flipped. Interestingly, he actually looks more tense with his eyes closed. I like how the metal brace above his eye holds his head together, both physically and conceptually.
Double Portrait of John (alternate arrangement)
Here is the backside of Double Portrait.
Double Portrait of John (backside)
This second piece is also a "John" and I think it is a portrait of the same person on an even more stressful day.
wood, tempera, wax
Bob Trotman
This third piece, Jane, looks to me like she is being sucked into the earth but I also get the feeling she might be begging to be "taken with" during the rapture. As with Double Portrait, he has allowed the cracking in the wood to become an element of the piece, reflecting his subject's imperfections.
wood, tempera, wax, steel
Bob Trotman
I feel like I have spent an excessive amount of time thinking about this next piece, bmn508, by Hunt Clark. If it weren't in the show, I would have posted this review long ago. Amazingly, it seems to be carved from a single block of wood. In addition to the remarkable carving of consistently thin walls all along the irregular shape, I am mesmerized by whatever technique he used to create this piece without significant cracking, splitting, and warping of the lumber. I also find it fascinating how he made it look both natural and perfectly machined -- as if he extruded the wood through a metal die and he simply twisted the wood like it was clay. Further, his abrupt ninety degree turns with such delicate walls seem like they should have broken apart long ago. The whole thing just seems to be pure magic. On one level, I would like to know how he did it, and maybe even watch the process, but on another level, it is nice to know that magic is still possible and that maybe it is better left as a mystery.
Hunt Clark
As for the form that he has created, I find it interesting that he seems to be referencing traditional craft objects -- spoons, bowls, ladles -- but that they become twisted into something that is non-functional contemporary sculpture. As I always like to see functional objects turned into sculpture and this is just one more reason for me to like this piece.
bmn508 (second view)
Norm Sartorius also had several pieces in the show that do the same thing, turn craft into sculpture, but with very different technique, style, and scale. Although his "spoons" are clearly not intended to be used, they are created in the same scale as actual spoons, so in that way, they are paying homage to the craft of spoon making as much as they show respect for the trees that they are carved from.
The Emigrant
Afzelia lay
Norm Sartorius
Surprisingly, I find that the more I look at Sylvie Rosenthal's Journey to an Empty City, the more I think about (and try to remember) Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude because I feel it somehow captures the same kind of magical realism he captured (actually, the only thing I can remember from the story is that someone is carried away by ants, but I do remember the feeling of the book and I think this is it). One reason being that this piece seems to be telling a story, but it is a very fanciful story in which a city pops out of the middle of a ram like a picture in a pop-up book. Another being the contrast between the realistically carved ram and the construction of the city that is simultaneously haphazard and well crafted. Taken together, there seems to be both magic and realism. For me, the best part of the piece, though, is how it inspires the viewer to create a story around such a bizarre arrangement.
Journey to an Empty City
basswood, poplar, paint, mixed media
Sylvie Rosenthal
Robyn Horn's Spacial Disturbance is another interesting elaboration on her theme of creating the illusion of fractures and construction out of a single block of wood. I wish I had noticed that the materials included "ink" while I was in front of the piece so I could have looked more carefully at the edges. I assume that she used it to accentuate the "divide" between sections.
Spatial Disturbance
fiddleback maple, ink
Robyn Horn
The shadows she creates with her carvings emphasize the illusion of fractures and assemblage to the point that I'm not sure she needed to highlight it with ink but I'd need a closer look to see if that is what she did (I don't seem to be able to find any ink in the images). One interesting aspect of her design is how the linear carvings contrasts the natural curves in grain patterns. The lovely worm holes in this piece also help to accentuate the dichotomy between the natural material and the machine-like design.
Spatial Disturbance (close-up)
The only furniture piece in the show was this table, Glacier Point, by Gail Fredell. It was interesting seeing this piece after recently seeing her Bricklayer's Quartet at the Fuller Craft Museum. Both have the same distinctive style, but as I look at this one and remembering her other one, I think I'd really hate to put anything on either of them. Yes, they are technically tables, but their function seems to clash with their elegance. I think that people should be okay with buying tables that just meant for looking.
Glacier Point
cherry, painted soft maple, steel
Gail Fredell
And finally, I love the subtle humor and originality of Robert Lyons' turnings with pencils.
Getting to the Point
ash, pencils
Robert Lyons
I also appreciate how he takes an otherwise functional object and combines it with an everyday object to create pure sculpture.
The Mind Has An Eraser
basswood, pencils with erasers
Robert Lyons
After leaving Blue Spiral 1 it was too late to do anything but drink, however, while wondering over to a bar, my chauffeuse and I must have passed another ten galleries; and then, on the way to dinner, we must have past another ten. Clearly, there was way more art in this town than I expected. Although I limit my art writing to wood art, my aesthetic preferences are not at all limited by medium, so I was disappointed that I didn't get a chance to wonder through some more venues. Now I know, in scheduling future trips to Asheville, I need to allot more than a single afternoon for art.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Beyond Good and Bad

Typically, when I make a piece or even when I'm looking at art, I'm always thinking, "Is it good? Do I like it? Why? What is good or bad about it?" I feel a constant process of judgement and evaluation. With my own work, I'm also often thinking whether other people will like it and whether I can sell it. With this new piece, What Is, I had the same thoughts for months. I had roughed out the piece back in March and had it hanging for six months while I ruminated about what my next steps should be.
What Is
shellac on blistered maple
31" x 48" x 1"
October 2011

©Robert Hitzig

My primary question was what to do with the small live edge remaining at the bottom after I had camfer-ed most of it away. In the end I decided to leave it as is because I really didn't like any of the dozens of solutions I came up with, or that were suggested to me.
What Is (closeup)
So I went ahead an painted it with red, yellow, and blue underneath many, many coats of black, as I had originally planned, all the time wondering if the piece was any good or if I was doing anything useful. However, as I approached the end, the point where I felt there was nothing more to do, and as I hung the final piece, I decided that this piece is really beyond judgement. At this point, a declaration of "good" or "bad" is beside the point. I really don't know and, truthfully, I really don't care either. I've take the idea as far as I can, done what needs to be done, and it is what it is. All I can do is accept it and move on. Maybe somebody will like it, maybe someone might even want to buy it, but I really don't expect anything more then it becoming a permanent part of my personal collection.

By the way, I recently bought a used Nikon digital SLR, the D70, and I took these images myself. Because I don't really know what I'm doing, the above images seem too light relative to the actual piece, it is really much more black than purple. Below is another image taken with less light that is closer but probably too dark. Normally, I would care more about the accuracy of the colors but with this piece I don't believe any image would be all that useful any way. My experience with seeing images of black paintings and then seeing the actual piece is that they are generally too subtle to capture in images and this one isn't an exception -- you'll just have to see it in person. Conveniently, it will be on display during the month of December at the Helen Day Art Center in Stowe, VT.
What Is (normal lighting, normal wall view)
Addendum 1/3/2012: I figured out the key to capturing the correct color is to use lights that have the correct color, which I did with the image below, but now I notice that this latest image doesn't capture the figure in the wood that you can see above. I guess my technique still needs work.