Sally Moore

Barbara Krakow Gallery

In her first commercial gallery exhibition, sculptor Sally Moore presented miniature models of the universe that unfold from walls or hang from the ceiling, becoming poetic metaphors for the rebuilding of broken worlds. Basswood-and-wire assemblages that initially appear as lighthearted and delightful homages to Calder’s mobiles or Klee’s Twittering Machine, 1922, ultimately temper playful curiosity with psychological vulnerability. In Fathom, 2004, for example, two tiny wire wings capped with bird feathers balance so delicately on a fish hook that a breath sets them spinning. A total of twelve sculptural assemblages, all from either 2004 or 2005, not only reveals Moore’s prowess at bending wood and wire to create dynamic and often kinetic structures but also signals a cosmic urge to find ways out of darkness and isolation.

The largest work in the show was Night Flight, 2004. Installed at ceiling height and consisting of soaring strips of bent wood emerging from a small wall mount, it was partially inspired by the artist’s dream of discovering bonelike forms in a murky swamp—objects that become symbols of hope in the sculpture. Three skeletal forms, pinned to the wood by wire, arc above the viewer in biomorphic curves. The wires resemble fish bones but also echo primitive metallic antennae, and the work as a whole is expressive but elegantly designed.

One of Moore’s favorite motifs is the floating island as a signifier of isolated consciousness, its frequent use inspired by her own efforts to forge connections from the depths of psychic darkness and emotional turmoil that she experienced throughout her twenties. For Moore, the island symbolizes depressive alienation and serves as a metaphor for her mother’s dementia; beneath it, whole continents of personal experience have been submerged. Persephone, 2004, for example, uses a tiny island hanging by wires from the ceiling to retell the Greek myth of the seasons. Its top, representing idyllic spring and natural growth, features a miniature tree, complete with fiber leaves, on a bed of grass, rocks, and sand. In floating worlds such as these, according to the artist’s published statement, “what’s below tugs at, contradicts, or balances what is above as they search for connection.” Below, Persephone’s underworld represents winter via jagged, icelike shards of Plexiglas and a barren root.

Similar slivers dominate the floating Glass Island, 2004, a more complex instal- lation in which a ladderlike wooden apparatus reaches upward, its armature dotted with pins and weighed down with a mesh basket filled with ominous-looking white-topped pins resembling eggs. The implication is that life grows out of a certain ragged energy. In the dynamic and beautiful Rift, 2005, an island made of splintered wood is attached to the wall. Emerging from these broken panels is a model of a construction site, in which ladders and weights appear to be in the midst of creating stairs and bridges, a civilization rebuilding in the aftermath of disaster. It is as if Moore is constructing a bridge in front of herself as she walks across it, participating in what she describes as “the fire escape school of architecture.”

Although her work has been compared to the complicated wooden armatures wrought by Sarah Sze, Moore’s small assemblages are far more literal in their organization of chaos. Moore’s art, where any implied lightness has more to do with timidity and vulnerability than joy, is less cacophonous, more geometric and existential than Sze’s. Cord, 2005, for example, comprises three interconnected wire cages pierced through with meandering electrical wiring that stems from a spikelike wooden base. The anxiety expressed in this umbilical or vocal cord, which refuses to stay enclosed in its industrial prison but instead explodes into a set of red, nervelike endings, is painfully beautiful. Moore’s thorny creations—neither brutal nor sweet—suggest that there is always hope in Pandora’s Box.

Francine Koslow Miller