Critics’ Picks

Roy Stabb, Zen Round, August 18, 2008, color photograph, 19.5 x 23.5".

Roy Stabb, Zen Round, August 18, 2008, color photograph, 19.5 x 23.5".


Roy Staab

INOVA - Institute of Visual Arts
Kenilworth Square East 2155 North Prospect Avenue
July 10–September 27, 2009

The Inova Dragon—July 10, 2009 is the acrobatic centerpiece of Roy Staab’s thirty-year retrospective exhibition—the first survey show for this nearly seventy-year-old artist, who has long been based in Milwaukee. The commissioned work is fashioned from a seventy-foot length of reeds bundled together with jute. This natural cablelike material meanders in great horizontal loops and delineates Inova’s capacious East Gallery. Seen from the street through the gallery’s large front windows, it appears to lasso its viewers within its contours. But once one is inside the gallery, the sculpture reveals a balanced composition, as it hovers in harmonious lines suspended approximately four feet above the floor.

Curator Nicholas Frank locates Staab as a second-generation Earthworks artist, and the large photographic documentations attest to the site- and time-sensitive environmental works that Staab has executed in various ecosystems worldwide. His geometric articulations, comprising collected raw materials, have graced shallow coastal sands, small inland lakes, major tributaries, and semitropical mangrove waters. A series of chalk line drawings titled “Pyramid Space,” 1988, underscores the foundational abstract language Staab transcribes on landscape, while the selection of twenty-two short video excerpts from his lengthy collection of documentary footage highlights the unique beauty and natural conditions of the art’s environs. Over the years, Andy Goldsworthy’s work has become the de facto exemplar for site-specificity. However, Staab’s elegant three-dimensional forms and disciplined negotiations of constructed geometries within nature give breadth to this breed of sculptural practice.