Los Angeles

Nigel Hall

Nicholas Wilder Gallery

The sculptures of Nigel Hall at Nicholas Wilder Gallery are quietly assertive works whose contribution is unique in arousing strong kinesthetic sensations and unusual manipulation of very slight volumes. His recent works, of the dozen and a half produced during his year’s visit to Los Angeles, are made of industrially prefabricated aluminum units altered with and accompanied by shapes of fiberglass. Though in his working drawings the barest linear marks appear, the sculptures are not linear in the sense of “drawing in space,” for the parts are not simply connecting points or descriptions of pleasant relationships. They might be seen as graphic; by their nature they offer an occasion for the experiencing of rather extreme spatial conditions and demonstrate a wish not to burden space with mass.

Contrast of parts is his obvious method: contrast of linear to more solid, of divergent directions, of open or closed or enclosing sensations. Though unusual in the divergency of shapes, sizes, and directions, one appreciates the special singularity of each work. Related in their final resolution, each work is the product of a particular sensation of an actual situation in the artist’s experience. In some cases, as the Tower II, the work may be considered an abstraction from the industrial environment, which an observer could guess from the tank-like shape. Others are more oblique or private, the artist preferring to leave the interpretation open to the viewer. These recreations are rendered in terms of elements he feels singularly necessary, and they are the products of long periods of adjustment on paper and gestation. Numerous studies precede the final execution; each one is made individually, and each is so certain in its purpose that few adjustments or changes take place when the piece is assembled. The aim of each work is to make concrete a particular range of spatial experiences, and though unexpected effects may become apparent when a work is completed, indeterminates are kept to a minimum. As Hall has stated, he is not involved in inventing shapes or playing abstract games with space.

One basic element used consists of an oval form located overhead, a ring distorted into an eternal ellipse so that even when it is viewed straight on, it is stretched in space. Another is a vertical tube which steps down in diameter at least once so that it shrinks in size and suggests perspectival diminution or a subtle top-heaviness. The top of the tube is finished with a fiberglass cone, the apex of which varies with the effect desired: the shallower it is, the more blunt and arbitrary, the more pointed, producing a more graceful upward thrust. The bottom end of the tube is rounded and the extent of the rounding too affects the speed of terminating the form. The final unit is a length of pipe with rounded finished ends; the final variant of a family of cylinders. This unit is used as a pole, an interconnecting link spanning many feet, or a diagonal event thrusting through space. The surfaces are most matter-of-fact, a singular color identity usually low-key and semi-matte in finish. The color is determined by its rightness or complement to the role each shape is to possess in composed weighting of a work.

In the belief that his basic problem is the explosion of mass and the final containment of the remaining pieces, he has explored numerous locations of his works in interior spaces. These include the usual floor orientation, occupying corners, hanging high off the wall, suspension from the ceiling (his current method) and suspension where a part also touches the wall or floor. His more massive elements are located overhead and most appear to float, the suspension being attained by the use of slender but visible nylon threads. One’s first impression is that the works are magically levitated or cleverly cantilevered, but one soon discovers those parts seeming to be propped up actually bear no weight loads. The magic disperses and the works take on more serious or slightly ominous implications, and the feeling aroused may not be rationally or easily explained. In some cases, as in Gladstone, the linear directions move the eye back and forth, upward and down, dropping short of the floor by a few tension-filled inches. Then one becomes involved in a search for an explanation for the hidden joining used to connect the parts.

One reacts to the tensions of the directions in a kinesthetic sense: they are related to human scale and seem to demand a gymnastic and active viewing with constant bodily involvement and movement about the works. In their broadest aspect they are stilled but forceful, and from what could be called “side” views they are nearly aligned and invisible. The uprights relate to the uprightness of the human body, the angular lengths warp or cut the space, seem to lean lazily about, or soar from one unit to another carrying the eye rapidly through space. Units overhead seem gently moored in space and generate a zone of activation all about them. These slender works consume enormous amounts of space, manipulate viewer sensations in an original manner, and reveal a young sculptor with a unique sense of spatial definition.

Fidel Danieli