New York

Charles Ross

Candace Dwan Gallery

There is a wide group of young artists interested in the physical properties of plastic––attracted especially by sleek surfaces fashioned into geometrical forms and buffed to a high polish. In the case of small objects of this kind (I think particularly of those by Peter Alexander), I have tended to be mistrustful, regarding them as I would objets de luxe, rather like the kind of things one finds displayed on lucite coffee tables, akin in their preciousness to French meteorological toys or Italian paperweights designed by Bruno Munari. On one level the sense of the luxury object is still apparent in Charles Ross’s work but they are, for all their elegant tastefulness (and, in this sense, their possessability), considerably altered by virtue of the enormous scale which Ross favors. Ross manufactures geometrically shaped containers of thick plexiglass, about an inch and a half in width, and these forms are in turn filled with clear mineral oil and then screwed, bolted tight and transparently seamed. The forms, generally of a familiar geometric simplicity sometimes enter an eccentric order, such as when Ross projects a small square (a quarter section of a pyramid) or in the case of a huge pentagonal column lying on its side. I think it of relative insignificance to Ross himself that the resulting kaleidoscopic patterns caused by the inner refractions and reflections should figure so prominently in his work––I hope not, anyway. I even doubt whether the contingent distortions and spatial foreshortenings––like what appears to happen to your body in a bath––are especially interesting to Ross. If Ross is concerned with serious ideas at all, they ought, at this moment at least, to relate to the various permutated notions of the picturesque. In Ross’s sculpture this is seen in the capacity of his plastic prisms, functioning like windows, to engage such imagery as is trapped within its curiously thick and oily depths. What seems interesting to me is the degree to which the geometrical sculpture dissembles as a familiar type in order to deal (effetely perhaps) with notions that are, or were until very recently, regarded as germane to the pictorial or the picturesque. It seems to me that the sculptures are pretextual and that they are, in fact, screens for the absorption of a kind of solarized, spectrographic, cosmic impression.

Robert Pincus-Witten