New Times / Art
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 28, Issue 5
Evocative, brave, gross, awesomeThe SLAM showcases a cross-section of contemporary sculpture
BY ANNA WELTNER
The truth is that contemporary sculpture is incredibly varied, making jurying difficult, and easy comparison between works impossible. I do not envy this year’s juror, Los Angeles-based sculptor Coleen Sterritt, in the slightest. I have no idea, for instance, how one judges the deliberate rudimentariness of Jonna Ramey’s Crude (a lumpy crow rendered in encaustic wax and sandstone) or the sheer audacity of Mason’s Unction (essentially a dead plant on the wall) against the imagination and technical skill on display in Earth Mother in Flight, a bronze work by Donald Ajello. With no prescribed theme or other guidelines, each piece in the SLAM appears to have fulfilled a very different goal. Some works are conceptual. Others respond to natural forms. Some have a message, while others are simply playful, innovative, and intriguing to the eye.
The exhibit shows a great deal of care in the way works are presented and allowed to interact within the space. Larger, freestanding pieces such as Jercich’s Abatoir and Adon Valenziano’s Loxodonta daliensis—a fantastically surreal piece seeming to combine a mammoth and a praying mantis; humorous, prehistoric, strange—dominate the floor space in one half of the room, and are among the first to catch the eye. Wall sculptures are largely kept to this side, among them Settino Scott’s Mortality, a shark head with its mouth open wide, revealing layer within layer of teeth—some of them human. It’s both nightmarish and totally ridiculous; laughable in its extreme ferocity, like something out of a pulp horror film.
The other side of the room has been bisected with a divider. On one side, several smaller objects can be seen on pedestals. Of particular poignancy are L.A. artist Christopher Chinn’s maquettes of homeless people, part of a bigger project for which the artist placed site-specific, life-sized ceramic statues of the homeless throughout Skid Row. Even in miniature, Chinn’s pieces confront our conscience by commemorating a class of people we try to forget exist; a class many people would sooner let suffer and die than touch. Chinn shows the humanity of the forgotten—ironically, by rendering them as objects.
Jenne Giles’ fiber work Dead Hare is immediately compelling; a piece that could almost be a stuffed animal, if it didn’t appear to be frozen by rigor mortis. How to explain pictures to it?Autumn Jennings has created a twisty, angular column of rusty screws and nails that shines like more precious metal in the right light. Goran Conjevod’s wonderful work Companions is architectural and somehow creature-like; two folded paper constructions complementing one another. It’s a piece that manages to appear significantly heavier than it is (in publicity photos, it resembles metal) and its delicate nature reveals itself only when seen up close.
With no thematic guidelines other than those in implied in its title, the California Sculpture SLAM is about as varied as it gets, showing us how San Luis Obispo County fits into the cross-section of contemporary West Coast sculpture. The SLAM is a showcase of the artist’s struggle—as well as the juror’s.
Arts Editor Anna Weltner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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