Los Angeles

Sam Richardson

Robles Gallery

Sculptor Sam Richardson, showing at the Esther-Robles Gallery, deserves more than one might grant him, considering only his most recent and most ambitious Real Estate, which is really a project rather than a “piece.” It is composed of 16 square-foot plots of rolling terrain, made of smooth cast epoxy. The segments that include (besides grassy green surface) furrowed ground, removable plastic puddles or even part of the bifurcated foam cloud will be thought more desirable than the squares of unembellished acreage. Thus their holders, when the project has finally gone to separate hands, will rate as an elite among those otherwise ununited sixteen. This odd and inconsequential fact is of confessed importance to Richardson, an artist who for the most part figures anomalously among his seriously funky or expressionist compatriots in northern California.

The problem with Real Estate is that it is boring, taken together or in pieces. It is too esthetically bland to be perceptually arresting, and too cunning for anything. The fine—nearly perfect—technique employed in Real Estate is used to much better effect in another series of works, becoming virtually an esthetic in itself. I refer to those works made in two separable parts, with a “lid,” which, placed atop a receiving base, transforms two entities into a simple box-shaped object, about 14 by 14 inches. In its closed position, it is seen just as a colored cube with a series of three thin parallel lines wavering around its horizontal perimeter and comprising the only clue to the existence of an accessible interior. The Sun is Setting on that Guy’s Ford is painted in layers on the outside, from deep blue to a narrow orange strip just above the seam to a high, shifting expanse of purple “sky.” Lifting off the top section, a hyalescent “pool” of blue plastic is revealed, sitting in the shallow recesses of a silky brown surface. The liquid shape ends abruptly along the square edges of the bottom form; its bed is visible beneath and rises in two low hills above the translucent surface. Then, removing the blue plastic, further subtle colors appear within the undulating plane. One of the most beautiful of the boxes—exploiting the skin like sensuousness of the material to its utmost—is called The Sandstorm Moves that Guy’s Dune Around. Here the inner surfaces, both top and bottom, are shaped into rolling, exquisitely smooth expanses of sand colored material.

There are also several larger pieces, of which That Tornado’s Zappin Right Thru that Guy’s Farm stands most in opposition to the hermetic intimacy of the boxes. Tornado approaches those qualities of arrogance and crassitude endemic to a few of the hardcore Funk artists, affronting on every level—scale (about 15 feet high), texture (from scabrously ruptured foam to even polyester), color (purple to orange-ochre to brown), and subject (a tornado sucking at wasted earth, balancing heavily upon its own hideous funnel).

Jane Livingston