New York

Edward Mayer

O.K. Harris Gallery

With unfinished strips of wood lath as his only construction material, Edward Myer weaves large towers and huts that combine a blunt, overall sense of solidity with visible internal structure. While countless comparisons with other artists come to mind at first glance—early Aycock, Stackhouse, self-contained Winsors and modular Ferarras—somehow Mayer’s pieces are strong enough to emerge as the work of a thorough, knowledgeable individual worth watching.

Unexpected details save the pieces from a too-simple overall profile. Basically, each sculpture has a fairly simple shape so this attention to detail is essential if the works are to survive their own obvious solutions. For instance, a large square “hut” dominates one section of the room. A basic four-sided structure with a sloped, typical roofline, the piece is broken up unexpectedly by external lines caused by the construction process. Raised slightly, an entire portion of one outside wall protrudes just enough to differentiate an alternate plane on the hut’s flat side. Subtle as it is, this kind of variation on a flat plane is just enough to keep the movement around the piece flowing. Though totally enclosed and still basically square, the intrigue of finding one more aberration keeps the viewer walking around each structure.

With a latticelike effect, Mayer weaves the wood lath strips together, alternating horizontal elements with the vertical, so that a slight space is left in between each slat. He takes advantage of the resulting transparency by revealing intricate interior patterns. Thus part of the allure of the large house-shape is the intriguing mesh varying light and shadow inside the piece.

Again, the concept is not notably original. Michael Norton built an amazingly similar Cedar House for the Nassau County “Wood” exhibition almost two years ago. Norton’s house also played with elements of moving light and pattern within the structure, revealed by spaces between the slats. Almost primitive, such stark, basic enclosures seem eternally tempting, no matter how the artist approaches the task—hence Mayer is able to perform still one more variation on the theme. Yet it is also true that Mayer emphasizes depth and interior substance more than Norton, Aycock or Stackhouse. One round hut-form relies on the sharp downward angles of its struts for a complicated interior composed of repetitive pie-wedged segments. Thrusting through the horizontal ribs, these struts echo the dome form at the same time as they extend it into outside space. Again, a familiar, basic shape is treated with delicate variety.

Looming over the squat huts and houses, Mayer’s tower is the epitome of his ability to combine the modular with the unexpected variation. Splitting into a forked bottom, the tower rises to a pitched roof on two sides, a blank wall on the others. Playing between the extension on the floor and the enclosure on the roof, the tower induces a feeling of totally circular movement, employing classical sculptural techniques to tempt the viewer into a complete tour around the piece. Hints of structural deviation occur in glimpses of the far side through the piece itself; opposing structural patterns are revealed only to disappear when confronted on the other side.

Mayer’s accompanying lithographs (one to each sculpture) reveal a more brusque, irregular form than the actual pieces, sagging against gravity while the real wood resists such forces. Consequently, they present a more lively-looking group than the actual sculptures—rough, irregular, blunt. Yet despite their regularity, their obvious repetitive construction, their similarities to previous pieces, Mayer’s sculptures are satisfying in themselves, the work of a classical sculptor who deals in the minute refinements of structured space.

Deborah Perlberg