“Material as Metaphor”

Craft & Folk Art Museum
5814 Wilshire Boulevard
May 28, 2017–August 20, 2017

May Wilson, Slunk, 2017, vinyl, carbon fiber, steel strapping, 3 x 3 x 7'.

In a shop window, an assortment of quirky, fuzzy spindles that recall drawings by Ernst Haeckel or Dr. Seuss dangle and sprout in Joel Allen’s Hooked on Svelte, 2017. Inside, Lloyd Hamrol’s Cascade, 2017, a stack of flat disks cut from gray industrial felt, slips from standing to lying supine, recalling the tension and release of Robert Morris’s work. The sharp contrast between these pieces exemplifies the diversity of the exhibition as a whole. Surveying recent work in fiber art by eleven artists, the show demonstrates how the variety of practices under its umbrella has always made the genre a slippery, imperfect category. Upstairs, keep an eye out for May Wilson. Her Slunk and Fly’s Eye 2 (both 2017) evoke this exciting sculptor’s gestural sensitivity as well as her collaged materials’ ability to conjure a sense of animation and anthropomorphic potential. In a subtle color study, safety-yellow steel strapping perfectly punctuates Slunk’s three kinky columns of slick slate-colored vinyl flared at the top with soft-pink industrial felt brimming with concrete. This alchemy of textures and tones continues in Victoria May’s Materials Flow Management, 2013, a wall relief that cuts a cross-section of geological strata out of a horizontal stack of mossy-green and sandy-brown military-camouflage textiles.

Tucked away, May’s Studies in Convulsion, 2014, assembles a tribe of alien worms with inner-tube bodies that spew out luscious tendrils of handmade silk and polyester cording. Elsewhere, Senga Nengudi’s RSVP Reverie A, 2011, reminds one that examining new work in fiber also allows for the revival and recovery of work by more historic figures. Full of fresh names, this show presents an array of tempting avenues for contemporary sculpture, with no need for subcategories.

Grant Johnson