New York

Miriam Bloom

Truman Gallery

In contrast, a commitment to the personal dominates Miriam Bloom’s vessels, from the smallest single bowl to the large outdoor pieces eight times its size. The vessels may be small individual bowls or imposing, water-catching pools stacked several feet high, or placed loosely along the floor. Most are black, constructed from papier-mâché or cement, and finished with rough, nubby sand. Running through the finish, small bits of glitter reflect light from their otherwise absorbent surfaces.

A certain fascination with the primitive is evident in all the works; just verging on crudeness, they’re saved by a last-minute elegance that permeates their almost lumpy forms. Strewing groups of bowls around the room or raising them on conical legs, Bloom plays with the effect of tribal artifacts; basic implements of a fictional society or sacred ceremonial symbols. The shallow, tilting bowls are open—obvious references to useful objects. Nesting, they imply readiness for use; stacked, they seem discarded, turning suddenly forbidding and mysterious. Attractive as object, the stack cancels any thought of practicality. Similarly, a tall elongated vessel recalls some gigantic primal vase, but proves unusable because of a hidden “cover” dropped down a few inches inside the rim. Several shallow bowls are treated in the same manner, introducing paradox to otherwise accessible objects.

Bloom’s vessels walk that thin line between real naiveté and the exploitation of it. A certain sophistication is inevitable except when dealing with cloistered primitives and the conscious use of innocence can become glaringly obvious, the resulting work falsely contrived. But a true spontaneity of execution springs from Bloom’s pieces. That her work hovers dangerously close to the crude is a reflection of how genuinely personal an expression it is, and how crucial the artist’s touch is to each piece.

Done with a minimum of tools, the feeling of hand-smoothed material is overwhelming in the bowls. Bloom is so aware of the sensual in her work that she “can feel the hairs of a brush moving across the surface of the sculpture.” The proverbial marriage of process and medium takes place in her pieces, which communicate such honesty forcefully.

Deborah Perlberg