Another Thing Coming
New Sculpture at Torrance Art Museum
At first glance, the dominant observation is the diversity of spatial placement, materials and emotions conveyed. Some artists use the traditional plinth associated with sculpture (Ashley Landrum’s geometric shapes of honeycomb paper and Tanya Batura’s eerie, smooth carvings of eyes and bald heads sit atop them). Others mount their work on the wall, hang it from the ceiling, or scatter it across the floor, like Shirley Tse’s fantastic collection of sinuous chains draped from music stands with molded balls of various materials, Pattern is in the Eye of Beholder. Most of the pieces are roughly human-sized—Christopher Miles’s funky Giacomo Gonzo Gruffalo Grendel Ganesha soars over our heads. Others still are tiny, precious; several of Eve Wood’s pieces, such as Doppelganger and Flock, are delicate works attached to the wall. (Full disclosure, Eve Wood is a writer for Artillery.) Anna Sew Hoy’s Psychic Grotto V is a diminutive, open structure of twisted stoneware that sits on the floor, about a foot high.
The materials are also incredibly varied; there is yarn, ceramics, wood, actual doors, paper, a guitar, tree branches and more. Some works are humorous, while others are somber. Final Translation, another work by Eve Wood, mixed a few pieces of her recently deceased dog’s hair with her own in a clear plastic model of a human heart; the result is deeply affecting.
That focus on the personal and emotional unites many of the artists featured. All of these artists know their sculptural roots, yet they feel free to acknowledge their forbearers and then add their own twist. Another highlight is Mary Hill’s I want to pick it up in my hand, I want to peel the skin off. Hill references Barnett Newman’s famous minimalist sculpture Broken Obelisk, featuring the sleek, phallic symbol toppled over and lying prone on the floor. Small, handcrafted ceramic fruits in shiny, lush colors perch atop and next to the obelisk as if they felled it and are rejoicing over their conquest—the feminine and the organic are victorious over the masculine and the industrial. Similarly, Shiva Aliabadi borrows liberally from Eva Hesse in Spindle, which features long pieces of yarn trailing onto the floor from wooden spindles hammered into the wall, but with a bit more messiness in the paint that coats the yarn and then dots the floor.
There is a heavy debt to surrealism, as with Woods’s tiny branches glued to old-fashioned wallpaper in a glass box—some odd curio from a moldy mansion—and Batura’s globulous mound of eyeballs. Miles draws from the California funk scene, fashioning his painted paper and aluminum sculptures into shapes that defy categorization. Noah Thomas’ Blow, a painted web of tree branches, is like a Calder mobile, hanging low to the ground and moving softly in the gallery breeze.
These sculptures are emotive, expressive and referential, celebrating the handmade and the craft, the organic and the playful. With most pieces scaled to human size or smaller, the viewing experience becomes more intimate.
“Another Thing Coming” emphatically makes a case for object-based sculpture’s fecundity and relevance as a vehicle for personal and collective meaning. These 15 artists demonstrate how cotemporary sculpture may be indebted to and in dialogue with the past, but is firmly rooted in the experience of the present, with a focus on the process of making meaningful art in a fast-paced, hostile and technology-obsessed world. Curators Lisa DeSmidt, Max Presneill and Chris Reynolds put together a truly engaging look at what Los Angeles sculptors are creating in their studios today. It’s worth the 20 miles to travel to see this exceptional show on sculpture today.
“Another Thing Coming: New Sculpture in Los Angeles”
Torrance Art Museum
August 23-October 18, 2014