Mary Stoppert

Deson-Zaks Gallery

Each of Mary Stoppert’s designs, on a human scale, has a physically rigid, straight wooden frame or support, which may connect with a latex-substantiated rope, a curved element that extends into the viewer’s space. The designs progressively widen or taper, with an accompanying motion of uplift or descent. Real-world references are to sleds, chairs, fences, ladders, surreys, and skeletal frame houses. Here Stoppert resembles the steel sculpture of a less poetic but practical Midwestern sculptor, Michael Hall, whose elegant, stark designs have contrastingly common, friendly references to gates, fences, and slides. But Hall’s work is of the big, outdoor variety, and Stoppert, while mobile and not site-bound, is still very much interior sculpture.

Stoppert’s forms are odd because even though they frame a space, they do not inhabit it. Their horizontal lines visually and physically hold the vertical lines together, but free space is also a part of the work. For example, three wall pieces, all fastened on rectangular supports, interrelate with inner space. One has criss-crossed, center-tied ropes rounding into the gallery space, seeming to press air back through each open quarter. Another wall piece has two backwards-C, arc-shaped ropes which seem to enclose a bubble or hold air. Another wall piece has two face-to-face C, arc-shaped ropes which seem to let out air. Each object is continuous with the room and defines something other than surface. It is not even necessary to move completely around the works, because the elements open into each other. The lines all move toward a sort of perspective vanishing-point, and looking through the rear of a piece is somewhat like looking through the back end of a binocular lens.

This work won’t press itself upon a viewer, but what one discovers after contemplation is its consciousness, which is exactly what makes much Bauhaus-oriented work so lifeless. But in Stoppert’s sculpture, each down-to-earth design clarifies the elements of ambiguity. Shadows from the gallery lights make a line-drawing of the sculpture on the wall. In several 10'' x 12'' box pieces, Stoppert siennas a flat shadow-box gradually darker toward the base, creating the artifice of density. Then she pastes thin, light-colored rope against the box-wall and extends it out beyond the edge into the viewer’s space. This gives physical reinforcement to the optical effect. In her other sculpture, the rope elements often lighten as they approach the floor and darken as they recede toward the frame, but not always. I could discern no formula for this effect.

––C. L. Morrison