Tuesday, February 19, 2013

a bicycle wheel by any other name

detail: Pre-empt, 2008, furniture parts, 9 x 40 x 19"

Judy Richardson
OK Harris
The old souls that inhabit Judy Richardson's sculpture are the kind that take up residence in life's residual moments. Their component parts, a melange of balusters, inner tubes, broken glass and myriad struts, spokes, joists and ribs, seem to be washed of original content, but not of history. Meticulously repurposed by Richardson, each part seems to carry its own internal narrative -- distinctly separate from, but never quite independent of the whole. 

On view at OK Harris through March 2, Richardson's wanderlust is in full force, employed by a sort of unmitigated Bohemianism that weaves through the broad narratives of memory and entropy, healing and reclamation. Her work is timely -- sentient --
something you want to see.
background: Chastity, 2010; Vietnam, 2010

Foremost in the gallery is Vietnam, in which the bones of disassembled chair legs are bound into vertical stacks that double as crutches or a cache of assault rifles. The two umbrellas that hover over them offer more tenderness than protection -- sort of like hiding under your desk in case of nuclear war.

detail: Vietnam, 2010

Here, Richardson's bundled legs, like huddled children, transport me to my childhood where I see Pearl S. Buck's Peony half open on my nightstand. The fragility of the work is evident but it also possesses a quality of indefatigability, and this is key to her art. 

In some ineffable way, Vietnam pulls at your heartstrings. I think of the crucible of landmines and subsequent tragedies, along with so many lost children. Not to be maudlin -- there is sorrow in this work, but at its core lay the heart of a warrior.

Around the corner, another umbrella form dominates the structure of Chastity, as it pulls us into a vortex of optics and physical memory. Like the cone of a giant tuba, you want to dip your head inside to absorb this mathematical convergence of warped lines. Richardson often invests her works with an abiding anthropomorphism, and here the towering figure nods forward, also invoking associations to Asia -- this time with a modest curtsey.

detail: Chastity, 2010

The act of  
recycling is 
political at its 
core  -- an act
of redemption and evolution whatever
the motivation.

The elements  
in Richardson's sculpture have 
already been something. Their 
past lives resonate
with a former usefulness that 
is soulful, and 
their anima 
resides here, 
in this fragile
the artist 
and the object. 

In this way, 
you feel like Richardson has 
not so much reassembled 
parts of things 
as she has coaxed new life out of materials that
have taken up residence 
in her studio. 

This is where the beauty is.

Richardson intuits and repurposes elements without eradicating the delicate balance between their unique character and the altered consciousness she brings to them.

Job Search, 2011, electronics, found materials, 54 x 64 x 24"

In, Job Search, the artist has engineered a maniacal aggregate of silicon chips, circuitry and casings, filament and defunct power cords. 

Heaving over splindly metal legs, the ponderous mass boasts two hulking "woofers" (not exactly defunct, since they were never more than simple apple carts) now distinctly inanimate. But in this configuration, flanking an electronic wannabe-monster, they recall deep space or cavernous sound chambers, and their depth acts as the mythic rabbit-hole that leads to someplace you really don't want to be.

An ode to powerlessness, Richardson was unemployed at the time. 

Swirl, 2007, wood, 14 x 24 x 12"

Swirl (above) flings energy the way a loose spring shoots off its axis -- spiraling outward the way it would from a centrifuge -- yet the wood curls not with a wallop, but like chocolate shavings, unfurled.

Ride, 2012, bicycle wheel, glass, metal, tar, 32 x 32 x 8 inches

A bicycle wheel by any other name -- is always a bicycle wheel. Except that in Ride, a circle of broken glass, shards of metal and swiftly deflating tires, any connotations of the wind in your hair are thrown asunder. For this inveterate bike rider, humor is where you find it, and here it's full-throttle -- going nowhere fast.

Among all this connecting and configuring, Richardson finds the human body; rendering it not in form, exactly, but in its coupling, memory, kinetics and psyche. 

Eskimo Boat, 2012, metal, wood, inner tubes, 68 x 26 x 10"

I recall watching a Latina co-worker as she kneaded flour and water together with one hand while regaling us with stories of her grandmother. When the mixture coalesced into dough she tossed little cakes on a hot grill, flipping them until they morphed into crispy golden bits of deliciousness. Flour and water. Go figure.

To me, this is how Judy Richardson makes sculpture. She is a diviner of refuse, rolling it between the palms of her hands until life slips inside -- eloquently invisible.

Pre-empt, 2008

Don't miss her show, on view in Soho until March 2nd. 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Judy's work is all that the writer says and autobiographic too. "Job Search," "Ride" are both full of the angst of RIchardson's plight as a sculptor in NYC trying to hold it all together and stay true to her work. Those bicycle rides can be perilous, riding from job to job and carving out time to keep her muses alive. How well she does it!