New York

Jason Seley

Kornblee Gallery

Jason Seley’s current show at the Kornblee Gallery has taken a decided step away from his earlier open, predominantly frontal manner to a confrontation with the massy problems of working fully in the round. The compositions are still additive, in that they are assembled from the automobile bumpers which are his trademark, and the knobs, thickish flanges, bulletlike mammary projections of the raw material make up a basic repertoire of forms which the artist uses again and again in different ways.

The three largest pieces in the show form a group in themselves by virtue of the particular way they exist freely in space. Each really seems to have been folded into a cube or rectangular prism out of a large section of a Seley relief. To put it another way, each piece has six distinct sides, and the volumes projecting from each side are too small in scale to suggest anything about the nature or structure of the interior volume of the pieces. Seley has dealt with this question by secretive openings which one discovers after going over the piece a while; the pieces have no interior structure, they are hollow.

Three smaller freestanding pieces do not present this kind of relationship between exterior form and interior structure for two reasons. First, the pieces are small enough in scale that the outer projections can be seen as projections of the inner mass, and secondly, the compositions all have a centrifugal impetus, avoiding the six-sided stasis of the three big hollow pieces. These smaller works are the most successful in the show because their sense of metallic mass is exactly suited to their scale and size, and the motive associations remaining in the re-used material are pleasingly amplified in the dynamics of Seley’s compositions. The single wall piece in the main gallery has a tight cluster of pointed artillery-shell projections bursting through a predominantly vertical assemblage of bumper strips that form a kind of crest at the top. Conceptually related to Seley’s earlier work, it seems a handsome but unchallenging reverberation of his earlier inventions, tightened up compositionally perhaps, but a bit too much like an outsize stainless steel brooch.

The one real buckeye in the show is a very long horizontal oval mirror with a Seley frame. This piece, Aunt Sarah’s Mirror, is only an object of eccentric decor, not dealing with any sculptural problems at all. It really cannot, since the perimeter of the mirror is too great for the size of the form-elements the artist has strung out along it. He is obliged to dispose them ornamentally to manage any degree of formal coherence at all, and because his particular facility for ornamental solutions tends to weaken his genuine gift for more profound sculptural composition, Aunt Sarah’s Mirror is, one hopes, a unique lapse of Seley’s taste and application.

––Dennis Adrian