The Cistercian Wilderness, by Oliver Jones
It is a stillform evocation of musical movement. A captured crescendo in ascent. A composition gently undulating within, without. An expression, very literally, in scales. It is Underdog’s Triumph, a nimbly assembled, quietly arresting piece by Marc Andre Robinson, one of nine artists in Grounded, an exhibition of indoor and outdoor sculptures at Airplane Gallery (through September 2).
Curated by Rico Gatson, this gathering of works—many of them surprisingly large, given the space—is conceptually “grounded,” on the one hand, in variably process-based approaches, and materially “grounded,” on the other, through the artists’ use of “found, recycled or otherwise ‘humble’ materials.” Thus Robinson’s meta-symphonic composition—mostly Schubert, say, with hints of Stravinsky—is a subtle construction of sinuous furniture legs configured like an inverse bouquet atop an unpolished, bark-sloughed tree stump. To its left, Ellie Murphy’s fabric-, batting- and steel-constructed Three Graces linger about passively, maybe spent from so many bestowments of beauty. To its right are two wooden skyscraper-like sculptures by Bjorn Meyer-Ebrecht, each cleverly spired by self-referential found books. Ash, concrete and magnets are among the materials in MaryKate Maher’s Kindling, a smallish cloven nugget that appears to glow extraterrestrially—or other-groundedly—in a corner on the floor.
Ascending from the ground of Airplane’s basement space to its airier grounds in the backyard, one enters the environs of a bountiful, fairy-tale-scale garden, where two elseworld-suggestive sculptures are now planted as well. One, The Cistercian Wilderness by Oliver Jones, lures viewers to the yard’s furthest reaches and forces them to look back—in deed, in time, and in fact—to behold a grand mantling of the Latin word labora, half of the sacred credo—ora et labora, pray and work—of Cistercian monks. Here, given the immediate surroundings of the sculpture in the yard and the gallery’s greater surroundings in Bushwick, this word and work in tandem read like a quasi-monument to some dashed working class. To wit, Cistercians tended gardens and brewed beers.
Now backdropped by the backs of row homes in the backyard of a basement-floor home gallery, Jones’s work caps off a splendid exhibition of forms now rudimentarily, now harmoniously, now headily intended.
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