August 16, 2006
LongHouse Reserve, 133 Hands Creek Road, East Hampton
"Xawery Wolski: Recent Sculpture" and "Some Sculpture: Albee's Choice"
How apt that LongHouse is exhibiting Xawery Wolski's terra cotta and bronze works in midsummer, for "terra cotta," which means baked earth, and "bronze," a desired look for many East End sun worshippers, not to mention a favorite color and craft material of Longhouse Reserve Director, Jack Lenor Larson, are coolly on display in LongHouse's lovely sheltered pavilion, off the lily pond.
There they sit, in isolated splendor, a dozen white and buff-colored forms of smooth, intertwined design. Several, among them Chain and Big Double Chain — two and three-element spirals — curve around and nestle into each other and, depending on point of view, seem either like free-form geometric shapes or, as with some of Wolski's white-patina bronze Spheres, erotic primitives.
Other pieces, a knockout untitled necklace, for instance, a delicately contrived sculpture of 12 terra cotta strands suspended from fish wire, each cord a marvel of interlocking double and single rings, clearly show the essence of Wolski's distinctive work: at once simple and complex.
A master illusionist, Wolski seems to be playing with preconceived ideas of tactility and weight. The sculptures invite touch and then surprise the curious who dare with the fact of their heaviness, as is the case with Dress, a terra cotta and silk hanging sculpture of one quarter-inch white beads, the whole suspended in Crucifixion attitude.
But what the eye beholds is not necessarily what the material delivers. Seeds, one of Wolski's earlier works on display here, an intriguing (and deliberately arbitrary?) arrangement of 10 solid-looking terra cotta casings resembling giant sunflower kernels, turns out to be light weight. Others, such as Spine, a large, undulating curve of discs that ends in a phallic tip, testifies to the sculptor's imaginative diversity.
It hangs not far from the mattress-like Terminus (in terra cotta and fiberglass), whose matte finish takes on a different sheen, depending on viewing angle and light. Three Flower-Tooth sculptures (as distinct from an earlier work called simply Flower) in their clever ambiguity may most noticeably manifest Wolski's intentions, appearing to be both petals and teeth.
Although the artist's résumé testifies to individual and group shows and award-winning commissions from all over the world, especially in Latin America, where the influence of pre-Colombian techniques may be felt in many works, Wolski himself describes his interest in the "utilitarian, religious and ritualistic" art of older civilizations as a prompt to his own fashioning of "time and certainty."
Clearly, with their subtle hues and inviting textural effects, Wolski's sculptures seem eminently suited to the unique art and craft designs of LongHouse's founder and guiding light.
Although Sol LeWitt's monumental Irregular Progression High #7 is what LongHouse Executive Director Matko Tomicic playfully calls a temporary installation on permanent loan, it should stay around. A photograph that stretches across the front and back cover of the LongHouse Summer Newsletter shows children from the John Marshall Elementary School huddling in the sculpture's recessed areas, giving a sense of the work's incredible scale: 1,229 square blocks of gray concrete, 95 spires.
It, too, like the Wolskis, surprises: despite its size and mass (only the top cubes are solid) it appears light, an effect of the design of its adjacent verticals — two blocks step up to five, three to eight, four to seven, and so on — nothing is predictable.
Across the grounds, a few acres away in the LongHouse Sculpture Garden, viewers can wander around the work of Willard Boepple, DeWitt Godfrey, Caspar Henselmann, Richard Nonas, Ned Smyth and Mia Westerlund Roosen and see sculpture in wood, steel, aluminum and concrete. Earlier this summer Edward Albee talked about the differences between "outdoor sculpture" (there by necessity?) and "sculpture out of doors" (there by determination?), a distinction as provocative and arch, perhaps, as some of the works themselves.
Surprises here have to do with placement in the natural setting, such as Godfrey's "weathering steel and bolts" Pamplona, its huge irregular coils that seem poised to roll up the slight, green hill rise, or Smyth's striking Last Supper table (yes, there are 12 columns and moveable plates), effective enough but stunningly placed looking south where its post and lintel design is framed by an arch of LongHouse trees.
The sculpture is on view through September 16. Readers should also note Saturday, August 19, when Jennifer Muller / The Works Dance Company will perform amid LongHouse cherry trees Nature in Focus, a dance tribute to the photographers Barbara Bordnick and Roberto Dutesco at 5 p.m. Call (631) 329-3568.