This exhibition of two sculptors at the Merritt Gallery constituted the first major showing of work by either artist. An almost overflowing display of 25 floor and pedestal pieces ranged in height from 6 inches to 10 feet. There was more than ample opportunity to get to know each artist. The majority of work was oriented toward the personal dilemma, though some reached to more universal issues and personal observations of the world.
Christine Clark and Dennis Leudeman
Merritt Gallery, Rochester, New York
May 13-July 12, 1983
All of Clark’s sculptures were dream images, subconscious issues solidified into metal and plastic. Several were large, imposing, complicated structures that took considerably more viewer involvement to discover than the larger collection of small, even petit, delicate works. Her skill in composing still-lifes out of a minimum of real elements (lifesaver, shirt, door) is considerable. These elements are placed in landscapes of sweeping, gestural planes of clear plastic used to bring action and location and thereby respect to the dream fantasy.
Color is of major importance to the work, and Clark utilizes it with finesse. Pastel shades, color gradations, colored metal frames, soft and rich as well as bold and bright tones—all are worked skillfully to match a mood and subject. The frames around which the scenes are draped resemble bedposts, tables, door frames and cages. Their colors emphasize the changes often found in the profiles of architectural details. These references are important to each statement Clark makes. Her compositions speak simply of repose or a frozen activity or thought. Surrealistic drama is handled elegantly in Party Dream, where the stage is very tranquil. The floor slips and slides like hallucinations, and, as in dreams, we do not question what may not fit into our reality.
Just about the only common territory between the two artist’s collections is the use of machined elements. In neither case is there a sense of the “machine esthetic”; rather, these components and details are integrated well enough within each piece to be comfortable and unquestioned. Only in a very few is it overdone. Clark’s use of machined elements is intricately and intrinsically involved. Leudeman uses them more as detail and as carved forms.
Where Clark is so at ease expressing her fears and thoughts on a personal scale, Leudeman is as adept at creating large, formal outdoor sculptures. These tended to be elegant and strong, consisting of solid geometric form with clean profiles. Although few, they admirably realized monumentality. The use of found objects was kept to a minimum, whereas on the indoor sculptures their use became overactive.
The indoor works displayed a complicated array of textures and forms that made the viewer work hard to understand. These constructions involve forged rods and many found elements, from old tool parts to machine refuse to painted volumes of unknown origin. Many of these are combined in a single sculpture through stacking, stuffing, lashing and jointing.
Leudeman seems to focus on the world where the clean, colorful and cooly composed exist next to the rough, hard and deteriorated. This could be the human condition and it could be a projection of our future. Some seem to be totems: Through their journey from floor to sky each segment generates the next, each stage telling a story or evolution. Leudeman’s colors are purposely obfuscated, allowing only clues and fragments from the titles and found or manipulated materials. Titles related to personal and humorous viewpoints, such as Hiding Out and Lonely Fronts.
Tetrahedron with Spots and a Tall is his most confident and simply stated indoor work. An inverted volume sits lightly on a found wood base. Sprouting out the top is an undulating taper banded in sensitive gradations of blue and purple, pink and turquoise, ending in tufts of black and white hair. It is a fun and intimate piece. Some of these sculptures seemed too imposing for interior spaces, though, with too many elements and transitions.
In this exhibit, sculptor and gallery made a strong statement. Both artists have what could be considered a crafts background. The gallery is one of the oldest jewelry-related galleries in the country. Clark and Leudeman clearly demonstrated that their art exists in many materials on either large or small scale. Their works did not speak of technique or puns on metalsmithing tradition. Any and all materials can be considered with equal weight in the decisions that create their work. With this show the Merritt Gallery has presented interesting and worthy work that crosses old and failing boundaries of established craft and art. Together I felt this show made a strong argument about a new field that will become more widely apparent within this decade.