Keith Edmier, Ricky Swallow, Erick Swenson
These days I have been thinking much about the dilemmas of making sculpture, or more specifically, refined sculptural objects. There seems to be a question in the air among sculptors: how does one reconcile the necessity for all the physical labor that needs to go into manifesting an idea? I think that this is the reason for the present prevalence of sculpture that appears to be more process oriented, rougher, assemblage-like and gestural. Not to be too categorizing, but for whatever reason, most of that type of sculpture has little appeal to me personally. I am not sure if it's because it seems to me to be like making gestural paintings with physical materials, because it ends up being too "messy" for my personal aesthetic taste or because I lean toward the contentful instead of the formal.
In my recent travels this past year, I have been very pleasantly surprised to come across two new, relatively unknown in New York, artists who are very successfully finding valid reasons and methods to create extremely well crafted, detailed work in which the material process actually melds with the content – Erick Swenson from Texas and Ricky Swallow from Australia. Of course, each has his own distinct territory but the work of both share not only the mark of amazing physical ability but also a quirky, even scary, semi sci-fi appeal. The fastidiousness of their sculpture lulls you into thinking that there is something very normal, maybe even narrative about their work, but then the futuristic un-placeable strangeness sets in. When I thought about including both of them in an exhibition together, it immediately came to me that Keith Edmier, an artist that I have always admired, has been dealing with this same combination of impeccable craft and other-worldliness.
I suppose the filter I put all art through is: has the artist thought about the particular role of the medium they have chosen to use? Are they consciously choosing to address the intrinsic structure and meaning of a medium and is there a good enough reason to make an artwork? I feel strongly that all three of the artists included in this exhibition have successfully thought about the role of sculpture, their craft, and not just about ability but about actual relevance.