New York

Creighton Michael

David Beitzel Gallery

The elegant, minimal sculptures of Creighton Michael are isolated entities surrounded by an imposed silence. These primarily abstract works, made from such materials as wood, muslin, dry pigments, and metal screens, are mute and self-contained. Their enigmatic configurations create a certain distance for the viewer, as if they were willfully retaining their secrets and references. The work was inspired by the artist’s discovery of torn umbrellas on the streets of New York City. This led him to stretch thin sheets of metal over wooden armatures, adding to them long, extended, limblike wood pieces and supports. Occasionally, mesh screens block the opaque surfaces of these flat, smooth ellipses. Although the materiality of the work is apparent, the pieces also seem weightless and ethereal.

The ambiguity of the work frustrates any eliciting of insight from it. Michael employs recognizable shapes, a strong sense of symmetry and lyrical interplay of forms, restrained materials and colors—yet the pieces remain anonymous. Some are so spare and subdued that they practically shrink from the viewer’s gaze. However, as receptacles for subtle plays of light, the sculptures take on a more poetic quality. The straightforward demonstration of balance and gravity in Widsith, 1988, was the most definitive statement in the show. The wooden armature that is attached to the wall has components that look like bones. The forms meet up at a rooflike curved shape that frames a wire screen. The piece evokes oriental architecture in its harmonious use of curved and bent forms.

Of the three pieces set on walls, only Sudan, 1988, has a demonstrative, appealing presence. The piece appears to be a retrieved artifact from a remote culture. The central shape resembles a large rock covered with delicate indentations and grooves. An elongated support colored an extremely dark shade of purple is lodged behind the dense form; it extends outward and connects with another curved sup- port. Coming toward the viewer is a tapered, metallic-colored shape reminiscent of a cornucopia. There is an unspoken exchange here between forms that look organic and others that look industrial. On the floor was Draughon, 1988, a highly resolved, self-contained work. In this piece the wooden armature is covered by a metal mesh screen. A wooden ellipse rises up at a curve on one end, while the other end balances on the floor. On top rests a thin, skeletal wood shape made from a semicircular arch with curved, extending lines. Here Michael focuses solely on the subtle logistics of structural placement. Shadows are cast on the piece itself, as well as on the floor, adding a welcome touch of drama. His works often defy expectations of what sculpture should or can be. The pieces engage the viewer slowly; they exist in a state of quiet stillness, liberated from extraneous associations and distractions.

Jude Schwendenwien