Jod Lourie

Stux Gallery

The first power of Jod Lourie’s art derives from the finesse with which form, image, and meaning are interbound, and from the authority the resulting visible appearance commands. The second power derives from the preposterous premise from which the artist works: that sculpture in the late 20th century can forthrightly employ. the oldest and most traditional form and subject matter, and yet not be confined by historicity.

These works arrive in the company of three thousand years of draped human figures telling stories: the women who lean into each other’s arms on the pediment of the Parthenon; Bernini’s passionate royalty; the twisted Christs and Virgins of Mexican pietàs. They are neither unaware of Cubism nor apologetic to it, reminding us that the subject of sculpture has, after all, always been ourselves, and that if the thrust of this century’s inquiry has been to fracture, analyze, and recompose art, its deeper purpose has been to refer to the human condition. The works are reliefs and freestanding figures in scenarios of everyday life; the models are the artist’s friends. Lourie does not imprint exact objective data from life casts, nor does she start freely from undifferentiated clay. Working with a leathery sheet of wet porcelain she veils her model’s body, picking up basic characteristics of size and shape. From this essential but generalized start, an adult embryo, she brings the sculptural image to form. There is some primordial magic here, but where the shaman may steal a snip of hair or fingernail into the effigy, Lourie embeds a sliver of the psyche.

The poses these half-portrait figures strike are as powerful as their anxieties and desires, and in the formal rendering there rolls a parallel energy, so that the surfaces and arrangements of sculptural mass tremble and tumble with commensurate agitation. The figures’ gestures are ardent, florid; the sculptural silhouettes are ruffled and tattered. In Bedscape: Grievances (No.3), 1983, a man with a chagrined expression lurches to pull his square chin beyond the urgent, scratchy grasp of a mate who swims through a whirlpool of bedsheets like an angel of the apocalypse; below, his hand, attempting to keep place in a falling novel, stirs its pages into a trash of curls.

Lourie’s imagery is keyed to narrative, to the passage of time and of psychological states. The gracious woman at the gallery desk sits below a sculpture of herself, which looks very much like her but anxious; she is in her bedroom looking at herself in a mirror, caught in a private moment, quiet, in-turned, and bare. She is not bare simply because she has been depicted in her nightgown or slip, in the private architecture of her dressing table; it is because she inhabits a private space of the psyche in which her fears, her vulnerability, and also her will to counter them are not shielded from our view.

A nail-polish bottle, a nose, a habitual nervous gesture—the work’s realism, its exactitude of detail, deludes us into assuming that the figures are themselves, that what they reveal is inadvertently more than they intended to. The objectiveness is the artist’s blind: wry, behind-the-scenes, she denudes, reports, comments, even manipulates; she is a kind voyeur, relentless in the penetration of her vision but indulgent of what she views. In these stories truth is so fine and tight a fabric of reality and fiction as to defy unraveling, and the greatest trick of all is that the magician does not conceal her sleight of hand.

Nan Burks Freeman