Moiré Fringe @ Santa Monica Arts Studios/Arena 1 Gallery

September 20, 2017


What was most attractive with the Moiré Fringe opening, and of the Santa Monica Art Studios in general, was the intrepidness in exhibiting sculptural artworks. Contemporary sculptural art is in indeterminate ground, an unfortunate victim of the transience of post-modernism’s general blemish upon High Art and the objective of discerning a fundamentally aesthetic piece; not one that is socially purgatory.


Perhaps the best efforts of sculptural art these days is ingesting the forwardness of a cerebral saturation of art, wherein the artist is focused too much on the abstract conceptual meaning instead of centering the artistic vision on the visually beatific. There was one strong example of this in the exhibition where there is literally nothing aesthetically redemptive.



Plastered arcane scientific differential equations shows an overly academic and juvenile artistry. In fact, it may even be considered pompous with its ivory tower technical language as it demeans those who are incapable of understanding it. There is art that is meant to enlighten through the struggle to grasp its concept, and then there is a concept which is so far removed from signifying anything artistic it can hardly be called art, but a byzantine placard that is trying too hard to be poetic.


But this is only one meager instance juxtaposed within the conversation on how sculpture can erupt the overthought artist pontification on a work’s meaning and, through this liberation, create a transcendental piece. Because this is foundationally what art is when we speak of it: visual. Primal and sensuous. The craving of being captivated by an art piece is in one sense a thirst for this sensual novelty but also in the ideal sense a thirst for intellectual stimulation through the visual cortical consumption of a physically intriguing, if not pleasing, foreign object. Hence the artistry found so effortlessly with Nature and our experience of Her. She is boundless with these opportunities for us to explore and feast our eyes upon.


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Thus, even if Peter Sowinski tried to over think his A Free Form Does Not Assure Freedom, his mind is constrained by the medium of his artistic expression. Not just redwood, but physical reality. This is the most initially striking element of his work; the sheer majestic harmony with gravity. The work stands on its own weight, without support, despite its fractal explosion of wood which makes it seem unstable. And it is this instability which is at the epicenter of the meaning of the work. It helps that there is a small cupboard with a gash of matches in a nearby wall which feeds the context. This is a pre-combustible bonfire, and perhaps the strongest representational gesture of Thomas Jefferson’s metaphor of the Tree of Liberty. Freedom is never permanent. It constantly needs a fire to fuel its momentum.


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The artist Yossi Govrin exhibited another striking example of a sculpture done purely for the sake of beauty. The great liberation from the old guard of academic art has been in the fostering of artistic liberties, and this is a good demonstration. Govrin accentuates the quintessence of the female form, which is the fertility expressed in her hips. But what elevates this work is in its figurative representation. There is no effort in resembling reality, but transcending it by imbuing it with the artist’s vision, and endowing our own concept of the world with Prometheus’ fire. The fertility expressed in the sculpture is not fully formed, as it lacks spatial depth and is abruptly cut, offering itself only two-dimensionally. This, however, enables a novel form to be revealed to us which has some degree of aggression or permeating confidence with its acute angularlity. it’s a very timely piece then, as it formulates a concept of a strong female: beautiful, but not delicate. A very positive symbol of what feminism ought to be.


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There were also bits of the playful, which remind of Jacques Flechemuller but failed to capture the same delectable fancy. This is a premature canvas of the artist’s development, who is more interested in the interaction of colors and figurative forms than anything more symbolically courageous. Also, examples of an interesting heredity of Mesoamerican, for a lack of a better phrase, paganism.


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But this is meant in a positive manner. For humanity has immemorially conjured material objects with magic potency, elevating them to a higher plane of existence while still retaining their material presence. The fact that art achieves the same objective as sacraments in world spiritual history is a welcoming reminder with these works exhibited. They are arranged in a rational manner, to give what would otherwise be scraps of decay something poetic and hence beautiful. No doubt historically the logic of the elevation of precious objects toward the sacred was the very fact of their material scarceness; so what does it mean when the crude and discarded are raised in a similar manner?  Let us distance ourselves from a social critique – that this emboldens the impoverished. Rather, it emboldens the rubbish! It equalizes the sacred with the profane matter, and thus is consummately a Catholic expression very much reminiscent of a typical dia de los Muertes diorama. That the universe is a sacred plane entirely is a very welcome message.


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Last to mention is a terrific expression of what the act of creating art is meant to be. It is meant to be an end in itself, irrespective of its social cohesiveness and entanglements. A Mr. H. Ray Ford has been wood-carving practically his whole life. He derives peace from this basic though tireless practice. And the testimony of a hand-made artisanal work is a thorough reminder of the preciousness of human life. Talks and fears about the evaporation of human talent from the world, with human efforts being displaced by machines, assumes that a machine, with its necessarily finite operations and limited library and above all material grounding, can surpass mankind and its eternal reservoir of spirit. For a machine does not ask itself why and finds completeness with a practically wasteful task. For that is the arena of artistry! That is the arena of the practice of a higher humanity; one that is not bound by material chores and the dust of the carnal rampage of the daily wilds; but breathes an answer as to why, and whose voice is heard by the countless who thrash without the time or audacity to learn to speak but are grateful that someone else can.


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