Toronto

Brian Groombridge

Toronto Sculpture Garden

Minimalism provides the precedent for Brian Groombridge’s most recent sculpture entitled Within One Action There Are Many Gestures, 1990. Here Groombridge has arrived at a synthesis of form that reduces the superfluous to the necessary and immediate. Using a stainless steel I beam which projects 20 feet into the air, the artist has fixed a rod halfway up that holds two carpenter’s set squares welded together to form a rectangle. The work echoes its downtown Toronto setting that is dominated by a construction frenzy and the verticality of skyscrapers.

Groombridge’s piece is a simple configuration that functions with quiet authority within its surroundings, without genuflecting to the notion of public art as a homogenized accompaniment to its environment. It stands in decided contrast to the quasi-Victorian setting of the Toronto Sculpture garden. By creating this Minimalist work, he has contravened the terms of the space, while commenting on the larger disengaged urban core. Within One Action is a compact, linear work that stands passively erect. It would come as no surprise to see a tall, thin beam such as this in a construction site downtown and to dismiss it as a functional object. As a result, its visual immediacy is, in this sense, more passive. At the same time, it is more profound, in that it underscores a shared understanding of labor and of the creative esthetic of architecture.

As a monument to both architecture and carpentry alike, the references within this sculpture are many. Rather than celebrate a utopian vision of architecture, the carpenter’s squares provide the work with a gravity and earthliness. In so far as the steel I beam exerts its physicality, though, it becomes a model of a single, free-standing antique column that signifies a measure of esthetic beauty. Still, Groombridge resists the temptation to valorize the role of either architect or carpenter; he does not democratize their functions. Instead, expression and geometry carry equal weight.

This duality of intention allows for an interpretation beyond the purist reduction that has so often characterized Minimalism in the past, toward a poetic evocation basedon its three abstract forms, the beam, the rod, and the rectangle working together. In his union of forms, Groombridge creates a sculpture that moves into the public domain without compromise. There are no interest groups lurking in the background, or strategies trotted out to mollify jaded art bureaucrats who would like public sculpture to conjure up a meaning shared with the public at large. Groombridge’s sculpture requires much more from its audience by challenging the viewer to reconcile this duality of meaning in order to arrive at a whole.

Linda Genereux