John Avery Newman

ICA - Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

An exhibition long overdue in Boston, Six Sculptors reflected various modes of sculpture-making, running the gamut of current idioms from free-standing objects and wall reliefs to architectonic constructions and ephemeral installations.

The other reliefs in the show, by JOHN AVERY NEWMAN, are flat painted wood constructions. These hedge on expected definitions of plane, projection, continuity and separation, line and volume. Here too, a graphic sense captures many of these dichotomies. Newman's structures are armatures for his drawing in line, color and shadow. The stark white verticals of Coincidence Gates (Plus Ultra), 1978, are the surfaces upon which the artist manipulates his subtle gray shadows and emphatic black lines. The viewer sees his contingent solids and layered planes as a single unit—whether they are placed abutting each other as in Vicious Cycle (The Flaw) or much further apart as in Gates. What initially appears in these pieces to be an overly refined sense of style (one thinks of art deco geometries or black and white decorating schemes) eventually resolves into an amalgam of a quasi-mathematical composition with a complex spatial conception. Newman sets up the keys and then lets each viewer find the point at which they can be best deciphered.

Ronald J. Onorato