Stanton Hunter & Michael O’Malley: Intimate Corners, Interrupted Surfaces
A Game of Comparison
By Jacqueline Bell Johnson
Stanton Hunter and Michael O’Malley are paired together in the show Intimate Corners, Interrupted Surfaces, happening now at Norco College Art Gallery. Both are showing sculptures that are made by the building up and combining of media, though predominately ceramic with Hunter, and wood with O’Malley. There is a legacy of craft taking hold in these sculptures. In both artist’s work, the sculptures are made with a slow contemplative labor of the hands -to perfect the edges and smooth the surfaces. The act becomes a meditation on form through process for both the artist and the viewer. The finished nature of the glazed ceramic and sanded wood denotes an intentional commitment to the end result. There is a lot of work in this show, and trying to take it all in creates a game of comparison.
Stanton Hunter’s collection of ceramic sculptures are mostly wall mounted, staggered along both sides of the galleries. They have an architectural quality to them and seeing them hung as they are I think of clusters of little buildings filling every nook and cranny as I have seen in my travels to Japan. It is an efficient yet very organic organization that comes from growth.
As suggested by the show’s title the scale of his work are intimate. Seeing these works on the wall is such a tease because they would fit so comfortably in your hands. This is further accentuated by the familiarity we all have with pottery. We know how the glaze will feel, and the weight of the object. The viewer can approach these works with a certain innate understanding, something not always experienced when looking at contemporary sculpture. They are accessible in that way that only ceramics can be, and therefore very enjoyable. Hunter’s artist statement is on hand in the gallery and describes time spent wandering the architecture department upstairs while studying for his MFA. He considered the buildings to be like pottery: functional objects, vessels.
The sculptures themselves have a composite aesthetic. I imagine him collecting variations of little shapes in a tray and piecing the works together one by one to create these multifaceted forms. As he moves from one to the next, he changes up the glaze or adds a second material like glass or wood. They are three dimensional collages that experiment with geometry, collisions of line and shadow in high relief.
Michael O’Malley’s sculptures are a mix of different woods, paper, paint, glue. The forms resemble armatures: lanky lines that extend out into space. They require a lot of room, though visually they are lightweight. The wood has been carved, producing a dimpled texture across the surface. It highlights and compliments the wood grain, causing your eye to fly over each hill and valley following the line of the grain until you make it all the way around the work.
The sculptures all have a precarious balance to them. The materials and colors lift and sink different parts of each piece giving the appearance of teetering as you circle around it. The sculptures all have function in some small way: a small vase, seat, table surface, or a hook. It’s a nod to the history of woodworking, but there is a humor in that inclusion. A six-foot-tall sculpture serves as a vase for one small succulent twig: the function of it as a piece of art completely overshadows any use as a holder for a plant. (Though it does further extend the play with balance in the work.)
This exhibition is up through October 21st and there is an Artist Talk on September 27th, from 1-2pm.
Intimate Corners, Interrupted Surfaces @ Norco College Art Gallery
September 8 through October 21, 2016
Artist Talk/Student reception: September 27, 2016 1-2pm
Norco College Art Gallery
Science and Technology 111
2001 3rd Street
Norco, California 92860