Los Angeles

Robert Janz

For the past 15 years Robert Janz has been producing what he calls “nomadic” art. Compact, portable, adaptable, transient, recyclable, his work involves open-ended propositions. Different sets of stick sculptures can be arranged and rearranged in an infinite number of variations within preordained conceptual limits. Some are keyed to specific sites (any arrangement in a doorway, any arrangement in a glade), while those in this exhibition specify the method of arrangement (all sticks in contact with each other, all sticks at right angles). All incorporate a sense of play, almost like matchstick puzzles or over-sized pick-up sticks. They reveal Janz’ interest in the work of Paul Klee; indeed, the sense of play, manifest in the whim of final placement of the sticks, provides the charm of the work. It can also result in its failure.

The core of Janz’ work is its nomadic aspect—as appropriate to the American traveling salesman as it is to the Spanish gypsy life that first influenced the artist. The equipment of the nomad—portable, adaptable, transient—performs multiple tasks modified by the circumstance of a particular situation, one ultimately tied to place. The object and its function, the person, and the situation commingle in an interactive process. Janz’ site-related works operate in this manner—the sticks expand outward to extrinsic boundaries and draw them into the works. But the sets intended solely for specific kinds of arrangements, such as 5 Sorcersticks: Any Triangle, do not work as well. The arbitrary designation of formal parameters severs any relationship with nomadic sensibilities. What is ideally a natural, symbiotic relationship becomes unbalanced by disconnected caprice, a game of “How many triangles can you make with five sticks?” They become elegant toys.

Christopher Knight