Los Angeles

Jan de Swart

Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California

USC’s School of Architecture and Fine Arts has launched a new lecture and exhibition program of which this show is an element. De Swart has developed a considerable underground reputation in Los Angeles over the last 15 years. His work in glass, wood and metal was shown as early as 1948 at the Modern Institute of Art. The current show purports to show the capacity of sculpture to give meaning to architecture, to “vitalize” its space. These cabinet-sized pieces in glass, wood and cast metal seem largely unrelated to architecture. The random and unrelated placement of a number of small pieces on a wall hardly complements its sense of architecture. Each piece however has a brightness and wonder that is intriguing. Cast in a personally discovered process into forms of wood, the pieces demonstrate a genuine interest in the processes of formation and disintegration that must occur. In truth de Swart is an unusual craftsman and a remarkable technician but he is not really a sculptor. His works have the charm of found objects rather than the dignity and meaning of a communicative human expression. Our joy in these works and their widely varied surfaces and forms is the same joy we take in the industrial object reclaimed by nature. This is, for all of its technical display, a muddy and imprecise art and perhaps that is what architecture is looking for—a touch of the worn and humanized texture of the found object displayed like a jewel on the anodized aluminum screen and seen through a pristine wall of glass.

Gerald Nordland