PRINT January 1967

Edward Higgins’ New Sculpture

EDWARD HIGGINS’S NEW SHOW of seven untitled pieces at Castelli does not, despite the presence of several novel features, bring his work forward to any real advancement of the sculptural concepts he has long since established. As before, the pieces are finely worked combinations of welded steel and ivory epoxy resin, and their abstract compositions are articulated with a fine sense of the organic possibilities of conceptual forms. The results, as always, are handsome and satisfying, and make it clear that Higgins has a rare sophistication in his formal ideas that allows his work to be very refined without any vapid elegance. Particularly agreeable in the present show is the contrast and simultaneous interrelation of the creamy epoxy forms and the splotchy, erratically stained metal elements. The novelty in the new pieces is two-fold: first, the compositions have, at least from a frontal view, a bilateral symmetry that is very noticeable and second, a number of the pieces have elements that can be moved. This motive possibility has nothing to do with “kinetic sculpture” however. Rather it is an aspect of a new interest in disclosing the forms sequentially, by hiding some under metal flaps or hoods that must be opened or lifted in order to see the entire piece. One piece, meant to be seen against a wall, has a specifically anthropomorphic suggestion, being rather like a George Ortman stylization of the forms of a female torso. In Higgins’s piece, flaps over the “breasts” whimsically may be swung aside to reveal smooth epoxy quarter-spheres beneath them.

Only one of the “movable” pieces really seems to inch toward something truly new; it is composed of two hemispheres hinged together so that it may be closed. In this work the difference between the closed and open aspects of the piece is calculated to enlarge considerably the formal potential of a single position. Besides, when open there may be seen the complementary inner epoxy forms which in themselves form a contrast echoing that of the piece open and closed.

Even though the other pieces in the show do not reach this standard of welcome inventiveness, Higgins’s familiar accomplishments are not to be dismissed unfairly as repetitious of earlier ideas; they are not. But, with one exception, they do not move to fulfill the developmental expectations that his previous production has aroused. The symmetrical compositions and movable parts are really just embroideries on the artist’s pre-existent artistic concepts and not, for him or for us, redefinitions of the meaning of sculptural form.

––Dennis Adrian