New York

Harry Bouras

Noah Goldowsky Gallery

Harry Bouras’s recent show of carved and colored hydrocal and cement wall reliefs seem like rediscovered artifacts from an ancient civilization. They invite the spectator to pursue a pseudo-archeology wherein the cunei-formlike carvings covering the surfaces must be deciphered. Although they are more abstract and less readable than the body of Bouras’s work, they continue his concerns with language and diagrams of societal relationships.

In 1971 Bouras exhibited a series of drawings and pages from his notebooks about the ways in which he saw people confined in the basic social matrix, the grid. Continuing the structuring of his work into a series of compartments or openings in a grid, he used a comical phallic/mushroom-shaped rubber stamp to stamp patterns of the individual’s attempted movement and confinement within the grid. Although the mushroom-stamp gestures were seen as confined within particular squares, they could be visually linked to form larger patterns of movement. These become paths or lines traversing the entire surface and resembling a kind of overall dance notation. The tension between confinement and escape, the tension between the grid serving the general good by providing order for the individual and society and simultaneously destroying the individual, is seen in the way the stamped patterns destroy the integrity of the grid.

If one looks at the recent work in the light of these past efforts, it is possible to see how the current slabs of “writing” could represent a further abstraction of his diagrams of societal relationships. But, like the trompe l’oeil illusion of writing in Peto’s letter boards or Cubist still life, in which what looks like actual words from a distance turns out upon closer observation to be only lines suggesting letters, Bouras’s reliefs may only be a parody of language, part of a humorous maneuver to call into question our expectations of significance.

Following a recent trend toward a greater use of color in sculpture, color takes on a definite importance in Bouras’s work. Each piece is a two-color laminate in which the first layer is carved through to reveal the second. His palette of softly contrasting earth tones (a warm grey and a cool grey; burnt sienna and ochre; willow green and burnt sienna) takes on an enhanced color range, because he fully exploits the ways in which light reflects from the surface and pools in the shadows cast by the carving.

Ann-Sargent Wooster