Form is the Thing at Saratoga Arts Exhibit


We all know the totally abstract sculptureobjects full of themselves, of their surfaces, of their materiality, of their form. The new threesome show Progressions at Saratoga Arts presents work that stops just short of absolute abstraction, so there is a wavering, welcome dance of suggestion.

You might not agree, but for me the shapes here have clues of something that we can smell without always knowing why. The two accomplished sculptors of the main galleries, Caroline Ramersdorfer and Mia Westerlund Roosen, are experts at making more of their materials than there are obviously.

Rambersdorfers marble objects certainly rely on the beauty of fine stone, with some slabs stacked and others having a crystalline form like finds from outer space. In contrast, RoosenFelt and resin forms wrap, overlap and intertwine in a way that implies botanical logic, as if drawn from very deep waters.

This is actually one rather supernatural spectacle, with finished sculptures alongside preliminary models and sketches on paper. The third artist, post-war sculptor Dorothy Dehner, acts as spiritual support, with some small but significant works on paper in a hallway.

The pleasure of Progressionsstarts with how these 3-Ds workmade of all kinds of materials, from marble and wood to felt, plaster and ceramicsee good. He’s stretching the old adage of Duke Ellington: if it sounds good, it is good. Their works take you in and around, then around again, inviting spatial analysis, adapting forms and deviations to understanding. Is Nt about meaning or deciphering content and symbolism, and there is no personal angst. The show speaks of forms that seem right and hide an ambiguous complicity with the viewer.

Take the complex, imposing Carmelite IIby Roosen. He does not present himself as a figure, but as a kind of plant form, its flattened tendrils reaching with a wave of arms in bi-symmetrical waves. It’s not thatt reveal its underlying nature of felt hardened with resinit could easily have been a large sheet of clay, bent, cut and fired. While it feels like it was once alive, it is also in an inevitable stasis, a still frame for the viewer.

All Roosens work struggles against an external energetic force with straightness and resolution, so that loose ends and angles and long, narrow forms are ultimately contained. It may sound contradictory, but it makes the objects compelling. RoosenSmall ceramic studies are easily expanded in your head to match the finished effects of larger works.

Some of Roosens sculptures over the years have been designed for larger outdoor spaces, where scale and environment contribute. (One of his works will greet you from the gardens just outside the building’s gates.) And then It’s with Ramersdorfers works, which are known for their public performances.

All in Ramersdorfers half of the gallery is cold bordering on cold in his cosmic vision. The hard angles, the resistance of the marble and stainless steel media put the viewer at a distance. They are lifeless by design but involves logic. There are geometric shapes within shapes, or layers of similar shapes mounted in rectangular steel frames that form spectral sandwiches. There are fewer intricacies than you’d prefer, but they do have a flashy finish.

The many preparatory drawings here give the impression of a formal process and add a human glow to the works. Two studies even slightly include three-dimensional constructions, as if the drawings come to life on the page, an engaging novelty.

The third artist in this exhibition looks like a peripheral addition, but Dorothy Dehner is known locally for her sculptures from the 1950s and 1960s. Here we have works on paper from 1953 and 1954, just before her breakthroughs in sculpture, which show a developing vocabulary of geometry and form that comfortably foreshadows the other works on display.

Where: Saratoga Arts, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

When: until August 14

Hours: Monday – Friday: 9 a.m. – 5, Saturday: 12 p.m.-4 p.m.


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