New York

Tom Doyle

Dwan Gallery

Tom Doyle’s show at the Dwan consists, quite largely, of one major sculpture which spans most of the gallery’s length, looming close to the ceiling. Doyle juxtaposes disparate polychromed masses, whose off-axis dynamics and individualized shapes represent a current, but also retrospective antithesis to the unifying, non-relational designs of primary structures or the singularity of “specific objects.” The open volumes and extended, interrelating parts clearly refer to Doyle’s foundation in the gestural, romantic spirit of Abstract Expressionism, yet an updated instinct for broadened, simpler shapes and structural lucidity is also apparent.

In this main work, called The First on the First Day, a smooth grey fiber-glassed wood cusp surges up with an impossible gravity from a midnight blue tail-like base. Suggesting a giant dolphin, or a. wave poised before a breaker, it towers over another blue piece, an angular bent ramp, which hugs the floor. Doyle aims to set upenergetic plastic relationships between the parts of the whole—its eccentrically shaped vertical component and the more geometrically defined “ground” sections—as well as between the environmental space which this challenging curved swell encloses, and the flat or arced planes. The overall effect, though, is somehow not as exciting as the idea itself may sound. The parts are carefully contrasted or related to each other compositionally (inflated and hollowed, biomorphic versus taut planks, volumetric versus planar, etc.), but there is an indeterminate looseness to the whole, which leaves one faltering. Perhaps this derives from the freely wavering edges of the dominant shape and its erratic silhouette, or from the flow of space under, in, and through the carved out or flattened surfaces. Of course there is a deliberate effort to disassociate the sections by the introduction of an optical element, in coloration. The two grittily textured floor pieces (at opposite ends of the work) are glossed blue, while the largest mass is a neutral and self-effacing grey. Despite all of these promisingly charged relationships, one feels that sheer size is superfluous here, an overstated grandeur, substituting phenomenal “presence” for real plastic and esthetic interest. The kind of formal premises with which Doyle is working in this large structure came off much more effectively in two small scale, marginally placed pieces, Snicker’s Gap and Bermuda Hundred. These shiny curved slabs, perched delicately on corners, and chased around colored steel ribs, bring out a lively whimsy which is quite a bit more appealing than the rhetorics of the larger work.

Emily Wasserman