Chicago

Richard Rezac

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA Chicago)

Richard Rezac’s objects share affinities with Minimalist sculpture of the ’60s and ’70s but his aims are decidedly different. His formal reductions are motivated less by a drive for visual purity and removal of the artist’s hand, than by a quest for expression and nuance.

If at first Rezac’s sculptures seem restrained, their tenor is actually quite expansive. This survey of 16 small sculptures culled from a decade of work reveal a vision that is simultaneously modest and profound. Each of Rezac’s sculptures, whether composed of plaster, wood, steel, bronze, silk, wire, concrete, or iron, proposes a discreet but decided solution to a particular set of technical, esthetic, or narrative problems.

Rezac is extraordinarily sensitive to the nuances of his materials, to their weight, color, and tactility. The pitted cast-iron surface of Veil, 1987, a wall piece that achieves monumentality in spite of its small—11 inches in length—scale, still carries a memory of its molten origin. Veil’s rich metallic curve subtly opens up to envelop a small scrim of tawny yellow silk that fills its slight void. The artist achieves a kind of abstract poetry here, as the two elements gracefully glide toward a determined reconciliation.

Rezac’s art constitutes a kind of Zen Minimalism, a search for the kernels of meaning that rest beneath appearances and beyond language. Titles such as Pagoda (for Richard Pollack), 1987, Jorasan, 1982, (taken from the Sanskrit meaning “crossed arms and legs”) and Elevation (After Ninsei), 1989, point to Rezac’s consciousness of Oriental prototypes of similar urge. The latter rests on the floor like some bodhisattva exhibiting a delicate intertwining of bronze and lavender silk. As is often the case in Rezac’s work, one discovers unexpected formal developments as one moves around the piece. A small aperture in its top broadens into its center, making our initial sense of the sculpture incomplete, and calling for a second, more deliberate encounter; what seemed simple becomes complex. In tempering our desire for rapid access, Rezac sets a measured and somnolent pace. The restrained symmetry of his work is mitigated by human touch, just as the logic of its structural order are tempered by the human heart.

James Yood