Artist's sculpture unveils a process of becoming

December 03, 1992|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

Joel Fisher's sculpture speaks of the mysterious process of becoming -- how an idea happens, and something concrete results from it and then refers back to the idea.

In his new show at Grimaldis Gallery, "According to Hoyle," he has taken his usual process a step further.

Usually he makes pieces of paper, which are dried on felt from which they pick up fibers. The fibers form little designs here and there, from which Fisher makes drawings. The drawings in turn become the basis for his sculptures. Thus, chance plays a part in the creation of his works. But if this process sounds random, the sculptures that result surprisingly resemble things that can be found in the real world -- an animal or a human figure, for instance.

In his latest works, three are in the Grimaldis show, Fisher tries a new technique. Instead of bronze, the new works are made of plaster on an armature, and then attached to a wall. He adds plaster where sculpture meets wall, so the sculpture looks like it's coming out of the wall, as if the wall has suddenly come to life to form itself into something else. Thus the sculpture looks as NTC if it is becoming, which is not to say it looks incomplete.

Two of these works resemble the front end of animals -- an elephant's head and trunk, and the snout of a porpoise or perhaps the mouth of a camel. The third looks more like a bulbous extension of the architecture itself. But what they look like -- and they have their funny side -- is secondary; primary is what they speak of. There's reference here to alchemy -- transforming one substance into another by magical means -- and thereby to the nature of creativity.

Another of Fisher's sculptures, the bronze "The Heaps," also relates to this concept. Here the reference to anything specific is less evident (though one can "see" something resembling a man a cape, or a rabbit, if one tries). Rather, these five bronze heaps on the floor look as if they're struggling to take on recognizable shape. This may refer to scientific vs. biblical theories of creation, or, again, to the mind's processes, but the massing of these heaps and the relationships among them have a strong visual presence as well.

The sculpture is accompanied by the drawings from which it was taken, so it's easy to understand some of Fisher's process. There are also a group of 30 drawings, plus examples of free-standing and wall-hung bronzes. So the show offers a chance to see this artist in some depth, including the best sampling yet of the new plaster works -- he has shown individual pieces in Amsterdam and Vienna, but never the three together until now.


What: Joel Fisher's sculpture.

Where: C. Grimaldis Gallery, 1006 Morton St.

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 1p.m.-5 p.m. Sundays, through Jan. 16.

Call: (410) 539-1080.

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