Sculpture: Margaret Griffith & Ann Weber
through March 21
José Drudis-Biada Art Gallery at Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles
By Lorraine Heitzman
The exuberant exhibits by Margaret Griffith and Ann Weber at the José Drudis-Biada Art Gallery at Mount Saint Mary’s University show two very different sculptors at work. The differences are one of the reasons that the sculptures work exceptionally well together and also part of the fun. Griffith energizes the upper strata of her room, while Weber works primarily from the ground up, stalactites to the other’s stalagmites. Where Weber is concerned with volume, Griffith exploits line. Both artists demonstrate a confidence in organizing and manipulating space in regards to their installations, as well as making sculptures that stand (or suspend, as it were) on their own merits.
Walking into Weber’s installation, you find yourself in a wonderland comprised of her signature cardboard constructions. Each sculpture is made from strips of recycled cardboard that the artist wraps around an armature, forming an exoskeleton of repeated curves. Most stand upright, a little taller than life, and are rooted to the ground. This orientation plus their sizes and shapes subliminally suggests human figures but they also have an architectural quality too, as if you are Alice, navigating an oversized chessboard. Weber favors organic shapes and her application of cardboard emphasizes the form and volume of her creations, imbuing them with personality and humor. The color is limited primarily to white on the standing sculptures, insuring the emphasis remains focused on the form and at the same time, allowing for a cohesive structure and a universal interpretation. Although they have an informal and slapdash quality reminiscent of outsider art, their crudeness is part of their appeal, as if they shouldn’t be taken too seriously. The strength of Weber’s work is in her complete control over her materials and how she manages to express vitality with a level of craftsmanship that is appropriate to her wholly original sculptures.
In addition to her floor sculptures, Weber also shows a series of twenty-two wall-mounted pieces, Happiest Days of Our Lives, made from more colorful found-cardboard. Looking a lot like graffiti in bas-relief, these sculptures take off in a new direction, exploring two-dimensional shapes. The increased complexities of the wall works are an interesting tangent; they allow for more elaborate, calligraphic forms that are almost musical in their relationship to each other. And although both the floor and wall sculptures compliment each other, it is difficult to compete with the tremendous presence of the three-dimensional work. The first five elements of the Happiest Days of Our Lives work best when isolated on a separate wall, so perhaps this is more a matter of an installation that could use more room. Happily, Weber’s continued explorations with cardboard are ongoing and inventive without any signs of slowing down. When we next see her imaginative sculptures, let’s hope for more room for them, as well.
Margaret Griffith’s sculptures have a light, ethereal quality that emphasizes line in all sorts of configurations. She interprets metal fencing in various crumpled, twisted masses and suspends them from the ceiling, mounts them to the wall and shelves, or thrusts them across the room. 15th, 17th and Pennsylvania, a curtain of hand cut Tyvek, dominates the space, stretching from floor to ceiling and across the width of the gallery. While effectively dividing the space, it is not much of a barrier. It is a delicate thing, hanging in swags and pooling in places on the concrete floor, an elegant, re-imagined kelp forest. Less obviously ornamental than her other work, where the curlicues and finials of ironwork are more apparent, this installation nicely balances the lacy qualities with the grid. The use of fencing imagery, of course, brings up the idea of barriers, whether real or imagined. This barrier, easily trespassed, is not much of one at all. Like all of her fence sculptures, they are dysfunctional, either broken, gnarled, or stripped of their original purpose. Griffith’s work takes a sledgehammer to the idea of fences as a means to separate and delineate in the traditional sense, and in that way she has succeeded.
More is going on in Griffith’s sculptures than a literal facsimile of fences, though. Spout is a sculpture that originates against the gallery wall and extends horizontally out into the space. Using the fence as a pattern, the design is replicated in waterjet cut aluminum and then compressed and drawn out in an energetic display, a Milky Way of tangled metal. While all the sculptures in this exhibit are made up of linear elements, Griffith creates cohesive masses that have volume, but remain light and porous. They seem to relate to scientific models of different forces of nature. Where the sculptures veer from their original imagery into more abstract territory, they invite other interpretations and mysteries, and it is here where Griffith’s work really breaks barriers.