Even if the idea of sculptures “provoking dialogue about the legacy of minimalism, permutations of the ready made and the social role of art” makes you sleepy, it’s still worth a visit to Drop, Stack and Lean.
Those ideas, as asserted in the gallery’s statement about the exhibition, are, at least to some degree, in play in the works—from blue chip to emerging—of Carle Andre, Tom Friedman, Robert Gaylor, Andrew Gellatly, Rebecca Holland and Yves Klein.
But, as is often the case, the alleged intellectual hoo-hah surrounding works of art and the aura of importance that lingers near the works of the famous-but-dead (like Yves Klein) tend to get in the way of a satisfying, visceral engagement with the work. And in terms of space, color and materiality, this exhibition is, despite its minimal trope, mighty voluptuous.
So, by all means, be as art wonky and as star fuckery as you want, but when you stand in front of “Table Bleue,” Klein’s 1961 coffee table topped by a shallow Plexiglas box filled with his signature blue pigment, don’t forget to pay more attention to the object than to the placard. It is an earthy, elemental thing—a museum case reminder that as adept as we may be at containing and displaying things, form and spirit are more permanent than the noblest incarcerations.
Carle Andre’s “AL 4 Blocks,” a grouping of four large aluminum bricks, lurks on the floor nearby with a sense of immutable mass and overt manufacture. Andre may be one of the original champions of minimalist sculpture, but it is more satisfying to view his work on its own terms, today, as angular architectural clues to impressions of inevitability and basic order than as signifiers of the past. The whole exhibition is expertly ordered according to the crisp eye of gallery Director Hannah Hughes, and the many echoes of form and color between older and more recent works also serve to subjugate time to the more pertinent issue of presence.
Rebecca Holland’s “Pale Green Planks” stands upright against the wall in proximity to Andre’s aluminum blocks. The work imitates the blocks in precise formal repetition but rebels in that it is made of cast sugar—basically 84-inch-tall Jolly Rancher boards. Holland’s work not only exudes an ethereal futuristic beauty but injects humor as a counterpoint to design and rigidity. She also exhibits monotone works colored in lipstick and frosting but to less effect.
Additionally emphasizing humor, shouldering the “dropping” implied in the show’s title and happily needling Andre’s staid forms is a plastic cube crafted by Tom Friedman. Although the cube is as white and austere as a nun’s panties, it appears to have been dropped on some cute, vinyl creature as splattered ribbons of synthetic mayhem burst out from below the cube—it’s like rounding the corner after a cartoon character has had a safe dropped on his head.
Leaning in harmony with Holland’s planks, Andrew Gellatly’s small “cut-outs” are nickel-plated forms that morph in and out of a generic catalog of decorative, art-historical and pop-cultural insinuations. These are more careful works than Gellatly sometimes offers and there is less character and physicality than when more haphazard forms hang by a spindly nail and have perilous encounters with unlikely color. But the “Façades,” as they are titled, serve an apt role as reflectors (literally and metaphorically) of the other work in the exhibition. If Drop, Stack and Lean were a single drawing, Gellatly’s work would be the subtle lines that escape direct notice but that hold the entirety together.
With what he calls “post-peak oil poetic archaeology,” Robert Gaylor presents a welcome local emergence of his sculptural work. Using found plastics—mostly bowls and cups—in a range of colors, Gaylor assembles blossom forms and columns by stacking, inverting and arranging the remnants of forgotten potluck treasures, Tupperware party hors d’oeuvres and deep-dish Halloween candy servings. Especially in this tight crowd of expert craftsmanship and impeccable arrangement, Gaylor deserves some prodding for his cavalier use of overly visible glue. On the other hand, he deserves overwhelming credit for his keen combinations of abominable colors and crazy recombinant botanizing of post-industrial era forms like the sad plastic milk cup and platters that appear specially designed for serving white bread sandwiches, crusts removed.
Gaylor’s manipulation of controlled manufacture into organic yet frequently architectural forms is notable for its immediate similarity to microscopic form and sub-atomic construction. The artist not only manages a kind of poetry of castaways and detritus, but implies that, just as the golden mean has proven to be a replication of nature’s geometry, the tools, forms and follies that we construct seem to be based on fundamental natural laws of assembly.
As Spartan and restraint-based as this exhibition is, it is ripe with greedy form and zealous, succulent ideas. The gallery invites us to “explore sculptural posture and process” which is well and good, but the secret to its success is the extent to which viewers may be pushed toward the process of indulgent experience.
Drop, Stack and Lean
Through Dec. 6
William Shearburn Gallery
129 W. San Francisco St.