Painted Aluminum Sculpture, 1977-1996
Joan T. Washburn
20 West 57 Street, New York, N.Y., 10019
January 8-February 28, 2004
What if, with a
glance, a solid could be made weightless? What if all our ideas about
matter were an illusion stemming from a state of mind, which once changed,
changed the physical world with it. Then we could live unconstrained
by walls and distances, unencumbered by physics. Our own bodies could
be light as air or quick as running water.
These were my thoughts at Washburn Gallery before the sculpture of George
Sugarman, a photograph of whom adorns the wall to the left as you enter.
It reveals a face as expressive and warm as Sugarman's art. He works
in cut, welded and bent aluminum never more that a quarter inch in width.
To compose his work, he seems to choose a shape and repeat it, Minimalist
style. But Sugarman's sculpture lacks any sense of the modularity associated
with the work of his contemporaries, Andre of Judd. Instead, form flows.
Each successive aluminum part, fastened to its predecessor with rivets,
seems the next moment in a continuous motion that threads a sculpture
In some pieces, he abandons the rivets altogether and simply bends and
cuts a single piece of aluminum into a wave like form, two of which
fit snugly together to make "Waltz." One is black, the other
blue. When I first saw it, I thought of the ocean crashing on rocks.
I felt the movement of one thing into another. Such is the evocative
potential of Sugarman's abstraction.
My own love of landscape and natural form found easy purchase in all
his work. What are you meant to see in "Orange Around" with
its spiraling mass of interlocking wedges varying in shape and color?
Although the piece's internal scale is perfect, each part relating evenly
to the whole, its size, waist high off the ground, seems arbitrary.
Again, unlike Minimalist sculpture, Sugarman's work does not depend
on its size relative to that of the viewer for its impact. It does not
bother about relationships with the gallery space but refers to some
"Orange Around" seems like the moment just before or after
an event. Are those yellow birds at the upper most lip of the piece's
goblet shape? Sun drenched gulls startled outward? I see the sea again.
The blue and white interlocking wave wedges around the upper bowl of
the form spiral downward whirlpool like toward the depths of the sculpture's
base. But what are those jagged oranges and blacks moving upward? And
perhaps those are not birds at all, but the sun breaking on the clouds
after a sea squall.
Physics tells us that energy is mass' equivalent in another form, that
the qualities of an object's physical existence come down to a measure
of its potential to transmit energy. It is Sugarman's gift with material,
in manipulating it, to set the mind free in pursuit of physics' more
mystical associations. In his hands, painted aluminum is not painted
aluminum. It is anything but and it reveals motion, as light as air
and as fluid as water.
Gelber on this same show
read Benjamin La Rocco on Al Held