Xawery Wolski’s solemn, startling works begin with elemental forms and materials: bones and terra cotta beads are woven into a fabric from which archetypal garments, or vestidos, are composed. Wolski, a resident of Mexico City who was born and raised in Poland, has always been entranced by the idea of clothing and adornment: “that second skin that one chooses for oneself in order to cover, to protect, to defend, to adorn.” In a remarkable recent piece, Wolski has strung thousands of bones from the spinal column of fish to form an immense, pale cape, a winged form that can be perceived as both a ritual garment and a living entity, presiding in the ambient air currents. Wolski’s vestidos are exhibited seemingly suspended in midair; substantial and elongated, a history of human intention is tangible in each beaded vestido’s cascading multitudes. “Meditation...is the key to this work: deliberate, patient repetitive movements that start with “nothing” and pursue toward infinity.”
In a related body of work, Wolski arranges glistening, highly-glazed clay components resembling liquid droplets in precise, jewel-like formations against the wall. Wolski travels widely in the Americas and obtains a clay sample from wherever he goes: “the clay comes from the earth, and the earth is the material of origin: the essence of the place where we come from and where we end.” Reflective and highly responsive to light, these works glimmer and morph in response to the changing light and human presence in the gallery, speaking an ancient and atmospheric language that extends beyond our brief moments of perception.
"This artwork… attempts to link the esthetic appeal of the object with the context of its material origin: it speaks of the presence of a human figure as well as of its absence."
Alan Bur Johnson seems to exist in symbiosis with the high-desert environment surrounding his Arizona studio, an intimate acolyte of the structures of flight and the cellular architecture of our shared biology. Johnson’s past installation works have directed scientific and exacting processes of observation and documentation toward the murmur and flutter of insect swarms and the formations of basic cellular bodies. In his new series, Push the Sky (one rendering shown above), which debuts at Lisa Sette Gallery this fall, Johnson adds human engineering structures to his vast vocabulary of biological flight:
“This body of work is inspired by a collaboration I wanted to pursue with my father, but was unable to realize during his lifetime. He was fascinated with ﬂight and wings — a shared interest that I only fully realized in recent years. An architect and artist, he became an exceptionally skilled builder of model airplanes… Working in my studio, I suspend the skeletal frameworks he built and draw the long shadows that are cast upon the wall, then redraw and reduce the forms. I also project the insect wings I have photographed.”
Johnson records the projected silhouettes of both human aircraft and insect anatomies, then assembles the resulting pieces into large, powder-coated steel structures as delicate as lacewing, and that, when installed, project their own shadow chronology in the changing light.
From a fragmentary epiphany distilled in the desert air, Johnson’s works speak to the variance and convergence of biological systems and human endeavor. Systems of memory and flight combine to give shape to a shared consciousness, a knowledge of our place in the world that is embodied by the structures we ourselves are in the constant process of creating and disassembling. Johnson’s particular scientific and poetic ingenuity is in expressing the volume of absence in these forms, and the mysterious, ever-present existence of emptiness and release within our busy moving parts. Push the Sky captures the shadow-impression of the fluttering and darting wing, at the moment it comes to rest.
"This work is as much about the negative space as it is about the physical forms. Forms, voids, and shadows carry an equal volume. They address both what is present and what is absent, and speak directly to the presence of my father."
-Alan Bur Johnson