SEE RANDALL REID'S GALLERY
SEE STEVE MURPHY'S GALLERY
In art as in life, there is a certain sweep and texture to every
experience. Yet, an occasional flash of detail will often serve
to illuminate the larger picture, rather than to interrupt its
scope. It does so by distilling the overall impression into a
sharper focus, much as a solo passage catalyzes a symphony.
RANDALL REID works with this idea in his minimal constructions in
metal, wood, encaustic, and other materials. At first glance, one
sees a subtly worked facade, and then is immediately drawn to a
tiny but significant feature within the frame. Reid creates a
pristine but subtly rich image and embeds within it a vignette
that takes the viewer beyond the first impression in several
respects. First, it breaks the surface like a pebble on water,
setting up ripples and inferences and associations. Second, it
balances the composition like a plumb bob within a building
framework, providing the eye with a reference point. Lastly,
it functions as a window onto the hidden life of the image.
One cannot walk by without noticing the detail and wondering
what is going on in there, and soon one is taken into the piece
and absorbed by it. Over the past few years, many people who
have seen Reid’s work have lingered with it, spending time in
quiet contemplation as if it were a celestial mirror or a moment
of dreamlike clarity within their waking comprehension.
Under Reid’s hands, steel sometimes looks like wood, which in turn
sometimes looks like steel. The ambiguity goes back and forth as the
viewer tries to discern what lies beneath the surface. This relationship
between natural materials is an important part of Reid’s work. It is,
in a sense, a collaboration with nature. The artist constantly watches
for interesting bits of material in his everyday surrounds, and also
goes to scrap yards and antique stores in search of pieces from which
he can extract elements or shapes to put into a new environment of his
own making. This juxtaposition results in an alchemy that produces a
work of art.
He is particularly delighted when he finds, for instance, a burned and
rusted metal fragment unearthed by a tractor, and is able to divide it
along internal fault lines so that the mineral spirit shines through.
“When I’m creating these pieces,” says Reid, “I feel like I’m in touch
with a universal consciousness out there. I’m putting certain factors
together in a new form. Some elements have been discarded along a path
unknown to me. I’m by chance finding them, and they’re coming back to
Reid’s surfaces can evoke the ancient world, looking by turns Spanish,
Italian, or even Egyptian in the case of several pieces with golden
areas. Occasionally an almost fossilized image appears as the surface
is rubbed away. Although he deliberately works the pieces so that they
appear very old, they have a modern, vital feel, as though they had
aged like fine wine. “I think about the idea of preservation,” says
Reid, “and about wanting or not wanting to age. After all, nothing
ever stays the same.”
In STEVE MURPHY’S recent work, circles give definition to perception.
Whether our thoughts spiral out toward the unknown or spiral inward as
they gather and store information, they gravitate toward the closure
that provides organization and comprehension. Steve Murphy’s work, in
both two and three dimensions, contains a host of ideas in as many
forms, yet there is about each piece a wholeness that derives from
realization that has come full circle.
Murphy’s vision began in the 1970s when he created a series of
paintings with a texture that he recaptured in three dimensions
using barbed wire when he turned to sculpture in 1989. He was
struck by the textural qualities the barbed wire displays when
wrapped into a cylindrical form. As the series was developed
and refined into various spindle forms, its straightforward
material served to maintain the immediacy of that first piece.
"I have since become interested in interpreting these forms in
other materials," says the artist. "The change in materials has
allowed me to use geometry that is not so severely symmetrical."
Those variations include a number of forms that only barely
suggest the meditative wrapping of earlier years. In a large,
freestanding piece, for example, a spindle may pierce a disc
that is too thin to be wrapped, yet it remains a spindle in
the sense that it forms an axis within a circle. The inference
is that other circles might be formed if the piece were rolled
around the floor. This implication of movement in the static
object is an important issue in Murphy’s work. The eye traces
the imaginary circle on the floor and the trajectory of the
spindle through the center of the piece.
A convex wooden form with only a hint of wrapped texture may
rest solidly on the ground, yet taper upward and gain speed
until its silvery top cuts the air above it like a laser. It
is this almost hallucinatory thick-and-thin aspect of the
sculpture, this play between gravity and weightlessness, mass
and detail, strength and delicacy that gives it an immutable
presence. As in a dream, irrational logic solidifies into a
clear structure and becomes invested with the authority of an
Murphy has continued to re-investigate his two-dimensional
roots with a series of shaped drawings. In a catalogue from
a pump manufacturer, he discovered some graphs called "pump
curves" that define how certain equipment responds under
differing conditions. Paraphrasing these lines as art, he
gives them new life whose meaning depends on what others see.
"I have had viewers refer to the drawings as interpretations
of geological formations, plowed fields, butterfly wings,
and other things," he says. "I really like this type of
multiple reference in my work. It is a more poetic approach
that leaves people to find their own connection to the pieces."