Los Angeles

Jay Willis

Jay Willis is concerned with form and, in the most literal sense, with illusion. His sculptural work relies on the sheet of glass—either mounted upright on a tabletop or clamped to a stand—and an arsenal of “props” (lighted and unlighted plumbers’ candles, mirrors, multicolored rope, crayons, paint, arrows, etc.), which he uses not only to form three-dimensional compositions but, magicianlike, to trick or surprise the eye. These props are placed before, behind, through or on the glass; in some cases, the illusion is merely of the objects suspended in space, while in others quite sophisticated “tricks” are created.

Lite Table (which sounds like the name of something purchasable in a magic-shop—the Lite Table, $8.95) consists of a square white table-top with a sheet of glass mounted diagonally. On one side are two lighted candles; on the other is a single candle. But as the spectator circles the table there appear always, because of the reflection, to be three candles on the opposite side. The simplicity of the piece—white table, unmarked sheet of glass, white candles, flame—is the simplicity of the illusion.

The most elegant of the works in this show, No More Horsing Around, combines illusion with a more complex formal structure. Here partial circles of glass and mirror, pieces of painted wood and cord are combined in a “floating,” Constructivist composition, while candles appear and disappear as one walks around the piece.

One of Willis’ more ambitious sculptures, Rainbow Mountain, presents a fiberboard pyramid intersected by a sheet of glass, with one side lifted so that we see a hint of the interior as though it were a model explaining the “mysteries of the pyramids.” Before the pyramid, which rests on a table, a coil of painted, multicolored rope with one end raised and singed suggestively is at once charmed snake, snake-basket and fuse—more Eastern mystery. But despite the apparent mysticism, this and other works in the show remain open and accessible and—perhaps—tongue in cheek. These mysteries are not of the mystic, but of the magician: Willis takes advantage of the possibility for illusionistic error in the viewing of any three-dimensional object to produce work which is engagingly light-hearted.

Bjorn Rye