Thursday, May 2, 2013

WPCA Exhibition Explores What is "Eternal Flesh?"

Figurative Sculpture Explores Humanity

By Peggy Sue
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“Eternal Flesh”The title of the current Walker’s Point Center for the Arts exhibition features figurative sculpture in a variety of mediums. The atypical, imaginative and primarily assemblage sculptures by four artists visualize the human form through various altered perspectives.

Perhaps Demitra Copoulos, whose work has been exhibited at the Museum of Wisconsin Art, presented her sculptures of two well known Milwaukee artists, busts of Jason Yi and Francis Ford, in more familiar, representational forms. Larger than life visages using a specialized process for their abstract coloration transforms the realistic portraits into these contemporary Roman like artifacts with classical underpinnings.

However, even more fascinating is Copoulos’s Life of the Party: Pamela Harriman Disassembled. The three piece sculpture cast in 23 K gold leaf and glow in the dark powder coat on ceramic portrayed a smiling white female head, lying one cheek face down, dissected from her wig shaped “golden” hair and squared straight shoulders. Is this what happens to a life of the party when her life is broken apart?

John Balsley contributed a cadre of miniature sculptures also in Gallery Two, tiny pieces of colored paper pasted together to create 12 abstract figures seemingly in motion from his The Garden of Paradise, Pandemonium Series. From floor level to eye level the petite forms appear to dance on the gallery walls, jumping in jubilation. Then when viewed up close, the intricate collage work could be admired for its own complexity, constructed with meticulous expertise.

In Gallery One, Balsley changes mediums and constructs mechanical like figures, little tin people, from aluminum, wood and leather that either hang on the walls or free standing. He hand cuts and pieces the forms with precision, and one titled Box places a precarious ‘tin man' (with or without a heart?) standing on the lid of a functional, rectangular box that slides open and then closes. Two other figures mounted on a short wall, Marcel Junco’s Cat and The Cat the Loves Dancing reflect feline faces and poses inspired by Matthew Gale’s “Dada and Surrealism," interesting takes on the animalistic natures hidden inside man, as Gale said, “moosard and muaowing,” tin men with souls and voices.

Sculptor and furniture maker Kendall Polster’s collage figures recycle refuse, metal and wood, incorporating beer cans and porcelain faucet handles in his free-standing figures that occupy the front window space. More playful than human, the sculptures simultaneously read futuristic and primitive, as if merging dual human psyches.

And Dan McGuire also recycles vintage odds and end in Horseshoes, Here We Come and Austin,The Formative Years. In Austin, a childlike, yet muppet like face sans fur tops the bare skinned, pudgy body, which moves on wheels similar to a wagon. The little “monster" at play while he or she, one never knows, grasps a fishing rod.

Perhaps the use of metal and reclaimed objects in the exhibition envisions these supposedly “eternal bodies” and skins, although even the Tin Man could rust in Oz or the painted paper fade, tear and be crushed, tossed away. The ceramic smashed to the ground, or the glaze crackled. Does an evocative soul, a heart, arise from these figures' creation? Despite humanity's struggle, flesh never can be eternal, only if frozen by science perhaps, and then would these sculpted bodies, artworks, survive longer than someone who lived to be 100? Or would the materials, the sculptures possibly be recycled again, reincarnated so to speak, to live on in other forms? Does the soul instead of the physical last? WPCA’s interesting exhibition deserves a studied look that explores comparison to human parts, and then Greek and Roman sculptors over time that seemed eternal, although broken. What physically in the organic body, a material object or a structure, if anything, can be essentially named eternal?

Walker Point Center for the Arts presents “Eternal Flesh” through June 8. 

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