In “Black” Cathy Stone extends and refines her longstanding practice of conjoining opposites in sculptures and in large-scale drawings that feature prominent sculptural elements. She pits black against white, gravity against buoyancy and spontaneity against calculation in works that simultaneously display grace and pugnacity.
Her paper pieces recall the minimalist shapes seen in Richard Serra’s drawings, while her sculptures nod to Eva Hesse.
Like Hesse, Stone is acutely aware of the body and its limitations, and she often uses the reach of her own arms to determine the dimensions of shapes she commits to paper. Here, the reoccurring theme is a boulder-shaped blob painted in glossy tar-like acrylic on large (9’ x 8’) sheets of mulberry paper. The painted shapes, which incorporate cheesecloth as textural and compositional elements, create a looming iconic presence which is intensified by pendulous, cloth-wrapped objects that dangle from the paper like testicles or breasts. The aesthetic is primordial, the result decidedly non-minimalist.
Stone’s sculptures employ a similar dynamic. The biggest, which stretches from the gallery floor to a height of 12 feet, consists of foam blocks wrapped in cheesecloth that are held aloft by wire. They resemble the preserved innards of a beast dragged from a tar pit. The artifice is obvious, but the feeling is visceral; like seeing the mummified remains of something that was once alive.
Indeed, mortality looms throughout the show. In “Bridge/From Here to There,” a tribute to the late Bay Area artist Irene Pijoan, Stone stretches pigment-covered strands of wire between two walls. These suspend small globular shapes and swatches of curled cheesecloth that have a dried-out, shot-through texture, like the veins of a skeletonized leaf. You can view it from afar or you can walk the length of it. Either way, the installation signals a poignant reminder that life has a beginning, middle and an end — an inescapable fact that Stone’s work continues to grapple with successfully.
–DAVID M. ROTH