Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mary Early: Sculpture @ HEMPHILL, Opening Thursday, June 10

Mary Early: Sculpture
Opening Reception: Thursday, June 10, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Mary Early is not cool. She may be hip, intellectual, authoritative; but she, or I should say her artwork, is not cool. At a glance her installations may appear to be extensions of certain late modernist sculptural strategies with their presumption of objectivity, detachment and cool. It would be correct to identify minimalism, serial art, and other absolutist modernist aesthetics as the foil against which to interpret her work. But to stop there is to miss the work’s ambitious content--content that is personal, expressive and hot as opposed to cool.

Early’s process is to initially determine a shape or component with which to construct an artwork, and then to make numerous copies of that component. Each component is fabricated from laminated strips of wood bound by cheesecloth, covered in natural beeswax and polished. These seemingly generic shapes are balanced against one another, interlocked to create a whole sculptural installation. The exhibition at Hemphill is comprised of two large installation pieces complemented by a small-scale work.

Early’s application and careful polishing of the beeswax surface reveals a degree of craftsmanship and leaves evidence of the artist’s hand. The artist’s presence is further felt in the unplanned construction of the installation. Early discovers the final composition by testing how the components interact. Beyond the visual experience, which includes a play of patterns, negative spaces and shadows, Early’s sculptures possess an aroma, the perfume of natural beeswax. By incorporating this undeniably emotional element, the artist not only communicates something biological but also something ephemeral. These non-visual and personal elements contrast with the idealism implied by her structures. Early’s work juxtaposes the illusion of permanence with the temporary nature of life.

This exhibition is concurrent with Emma Tapley: New Paintings.

1515 14th Street NW
Washingon, DC

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