Lately, the folks at Rena Bransten Gallery have been making big statements. At artMRKT in May, the gallery filled its booth with monumental pictures from photographer Vik Muniz. Now, with Big A%# Sculpture, they’ve supersized again, this time with a group of artists whose large-scale sculptures animate the gallery in a way 2-D objects cannot. While fun is clearly the show’s objective, it does, en route, reiterate some elemental truths: namely, that size matters as much as context and that sometimes what you see isn’t always what you get. But what you get is spectacular. The works play beautifully off each other and are freshly activated by the space.
A case in point is the Bay Area legend, Viola Frey, whose untitled, 10–foot-long, reclining female bather dominates an entire room. Frey, a key player in ceramic sculpture beginning in the late ‘60s until her death in 2004, claimed fame by building clay works at sizes that were previously unattainable. She did it by sawing figures into sections and then glazing, firing and reassembling the parts. If you’re accustomed to seeing her s pieces outdoors or in museums, the appearance of this massive work in a gallery will probably make you feel like Gulliver meeting the Brobdingnagians. Me, I’ve always had difficulty with the kitschy aspect of Frey’s funk-inflected work, but this figure puts those doubts on hold. The only thing missing is a swimming pool.
David M. Roth is the editor and publisher of Squarecylinder.