New York

George Sugarman

Fischbach Gallery

At the outset I should like it to be clear that the following comparisons are not meant to be invidious, although my remarks with regard to certain uses of color in sculpture may convey such an impression. George Sugarman and David Novros, the veteran and the comparative newcomer, are both first-rate professionals whose current exhibitions amply testify to their diverse and widely acknowledged strengths. Sugarman is the more immediately “recognizable” sculptor of the two, both in terms of the medium he employs—laminated, carved and polychromed wood which curiously suggests in its finished state the appearance of opaque plastic—and in that his units also occupy broad areas of literal space. Novros, on the other hand, is “recognizable,” if this is even a proper term, rather as an acquiescence to the fiberglass material employed than to any especially literal occupations of space on the part of his units. Considerably more than Sugarman, Novros’s sculpture takes its place within that part of 20th-century geometrical abstraction which stresses figure-ground contrasts.

The current Sugarmans are two large units composed of several sections, the names of the works being derived from the number of sections of each work —Threesome and Ten. Threesome encloses a small square of space and emphasizes a rugged kind of shipyard carpentry. One has the sense that one is dealing with hull or keel forms or the cradles or scaffolding necessary to such maritime construction. Color, as always in Sugarman, is used to identify areas or individual units. In this sense the color is sculpturally corroborative. Intrinsically the color may be interesting chartreuse, tangerine, light green but no more so than any other hue. The role of color seems utilitarian and arbitrary like the colors assigned countries on Rand McNally maps. The essential function here is to reiterate the separateness of the unit.

Ten—a considerably more sophisticated structure—forces Sugarman to abandon color entirely. He is hard put to find a satisfactory coloristic solution, as each of the elements are too close to one another and thereby have to relate as, colored analogous shapes. Sugarman intelligently avoids the canard of stepped and graduated tones or spectrum sequences. Ten is all white. Nonetheless, it is still the most arresting work by Sugarman I have seen in years. Ten is a bit difficult to describe, but if one were possibly able to imagine a pumpkin which had fallen in upon itself, and had been sectioned in constantly increasing increments from narrow slices to wider slices—of which the widest sectors were more emphatically buckled than the narrow—and the whole of which was pulled horizontally—and whose inner walls responded to this axial bi-symmetrical expansion—then perhaps something of what Ten looks like may have been conveyed.

Robert Pincus-Witten