New York

Steve Wood

Baskerville + Watson

Although it has been greatly overshadowed by the attention accorded neo-Expressionism and the general enthusiasm greeting other current trends of figuration, the emergence of a content-charged abstraction is the other major development of the early ’80s. Whether in two or in three dimensions, on the floor, off the wall, or in mixed media, today’s abstract art wears a new, appealing, and boldly pictorial face. Several shows in New York over the 1983–84 season indicated the widespread range of expression related to this development, including this show of recent sculptures by Steve Wood.

Except for a few reliefs, the sculptures are freestanding pieces on bases. Each work exerts an undeniably strong presence. Wood has an ability to transform the visual into the visceral, a sensitivity that allows him to force the psychic essence from form. And he does so by walking the razor’s edge between sheer materiality and sheer emotivity.

Primary Action, 1983, is an upright figure that resembles two canvas pyramids turned base to base, like mirror images, so that the points become the top and bottom. The work seems to stare confrontationally at the viewer; balanced on a short, also pyramidal pedestal, it seems ready to strike out and to turn its slightly rough, slightly curved surfaces in space. The edges are immediately striking, precisely articulated seams in the canvas, which is stretched over a wood-and-wire understructure. A small opening on one side offers a glimpse of the sculpture’s interior (several of the other works also have discreet openings); by encouraging anthropomorphic associations with physical insides, with guts, the skeinlike mass of elements enhances the psychological impact of each sculpture.

The disturbing toughness and the gentle sensuality of Wood’s vision is illustrated in Recurve, 1983. This double-based work consists of two slender tendrils supporting an irregular, many-faceted arch. The relationship of part to part, which recalls the complexity of crystal formation, also brings out the existential appeal of this large form, which is over 6 feet high. Recurve’s emphatic, sure, two-footed reality is perhaps in the final analysis a metaphor for our own being; the dark chromatic tones of this group of work also adds to the aura of evocative openness that pervades Wood’s provocative creations.

Ronny Cohen