New York

Beverly Pepper

Andre Emmerich Gallery

In contrast to her horizontally disposed “Web” series of 1976-77, characterized by dynamic and precarious-looking arrangements of welded steel slats, BEVERLY PEPPER’s new works are vertically oriented, stable and contained. Their origins are in a group of small cast pieces, made first in wood, in 1977. They also allude to ancient monumental sculpture—particularly Roman columns and obelisks. But far from aping any ancient originals, Pepper’s columns, spirals, wedges, and gateways are highly individualized and have a bold, aggressive cut and no-nonsense strength about them, distinctly American, related to the here and now. Still, there’s more than a hint of mystery about them, involving, in part, a homage to the past. In Claudio Column, for example, the traditional tripartite division of the column is present; but turned to emotive ends. Pepper has carefully shaped the dimensions of each part and determined their proportions in order to emphasize certain sensations of weight and support. And the textured surfaces, roughed up and colored by various acids, while bringing to mind, certainly, the weatherbeaten condition of ancient monuments, also serves to mark each piece off from the others.

What’s striking about the group is not that they are all similar, but that they still manage to be all different. Pepper’s knack for creating distinct, sculptural presences which can communicate and also draw out from us particular moods is strongly evident. And, it’s fascinating to see how a discreetly placed detail such as a small see-through hole in the upper part of a column, or a shaft which tapers in and out, can help to individualize it.

A few table-sized examples are also on view; they show that Pepper is one of the few sculptors around whose works “work” no matter the size.

Ronny Cohen