Mark Calderon

Jeffrey Thomas Fine Art

Mark Calderon’s steel sculptures have a germinal quality; they seem to arise out of the very spark and sap of life. These new works have a compelling emotional presence, which was made clear in the way they related to one another here spatially. Come Back in Two Halves, 1988, is a red wooden boat, child-size, set on straw. Nearby was Shuttlecock, 1989, a different kind of vessel: corn husks fill a steel framework, which rises to form a vaselike shape. Across from it was Untitled, 1988, a woven cherry bark vase that has been closed with a headlike lid, suggestively transforming it into a human image. Further along lay Untitled, 1989, a corporeal form that has been sliced lengthwise, tipped to a horizontal position, and set on the wall. Made of stiffened burlap, this sarcophaguslike figure has become an open boat carrying numerous small globes.

Each of Calderon’s pieces is a container. When open, the work conveys a sense of journeying, of transformation. When closed, it bespeaks well-being, completeness. Disparate ideas are linked through the visual rhyming of shapes. Even in isolation, each piece throbs with a power that is felt physically. Calderon achieves this through the deft integration of opposites. Globe, 1989, is made of longitudinal strips of steel, bolted at the poles and along one equatorial strip. A layer of felt padding sits just underneath, and the corroded steel itself looks like leather. This makes the work’s stiff, mechanized geometry appear at the same time to be fluidly organic. Steel is often used to oppose the natural materials set against it: Mars against Venus, strife versus love, technology contrasted with ecology.

Similarly, in a more intuitive manner, Calderon links the iconography of life and death through the concept of transience. In Untitled, 1989, the brass autumn leaves collected inside a steel-mesh urn have all curled into boat shapes. Calderon’s imagery suggests death is just as transient as was life: one’s passionate engagement in this world continues to foster the transit of others.

Jae Carlsson