new-york

James Surls

Marlborough Gallery | New York

James Surls’ massive, baroque assemblages of wood and steel tend to inspire a certain art-historical amnesia. Perhaps the primary cause of this forgetfullness, apart from his signature theatricality—especially the monumental scale and gravity-defying bravado of his works—is the anachronistic nature of his formal and conceptual concerns. On the one hand, these contorted, quasi-figural clusters of whittled and chopped tree-branches resonate, albeit after the fact, with the quasi-organic, expressive mode of sculpture that flowered in the ’80s such as the work of Petah Coyne and Carol Hepper. On the other hand, his work’s rather grandiose archetypal and symbolic thrust ultimately recalls the Jungian ’40s.

His most recent sculptures appear to hover, dance, or spin according to a logic informed by both natural and human forces. Brought up in the woods of east Texas under the tutelage of his

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