With split states, a well-titled exhibition of pigment-infused epoxy clay sculpture, Christian Maychack continues to blur the line between painting and sculpture. Confusing surface and support, freedom and containment, object and action, his works bounce our attention back and forth between the plasticity of the pigmented parts and the hard edges of the wood support structures that hold them in place.
Maychack squeezes clay into the frames to create “windows” of negative space. He also pushes the material outside the frame’s edges, forcing viewers to ask: Does the wood support the clay or is it the other way around? The question is unanswerable and, as such it becomes an animating force as well as a spectacular re-ignition of old Modernist debates about how painting and sculpture should be presented. Hybrids of this sort, with their curves, Constructivist angularity and disregard for edges and boundaries move us back to Eva Hesse's groundbreaking works of the early ‘70s and forward to the everything-goes present with their unapologetic embrace of beauty. One also thinks, more remotely, of the monumental shaped canvases of Frank Stella and Elizabeth Murray. Maychack’s works, like theirs, push boldly into three dimensions, but do so at an intimate scale, encouraging close examination of nooks and crannies where the marvelous details of their creation are best savored. Those details include: slivers of curved wood set into clay; sanded surfaces that affect a marbleized texture; rough shards of raw clay that poke out perpendicularly from picture plane; and radiating biomorphic stains — visible evidence of the artist’s infusion of colored pigment into the clay.
Overall, the dominant effect conjured is that of geologic phenomena. Compound Flat #38 and Compound Flat # 39, for example, suggest lava flows sheared off in the manner of polished rock, their “plumes” severing the joinery to suggest molten matter forcing its way into architectural spaces. Other works call up different associations: Pushy (a shopping cart overflowing with cement); Compound Flat # 36 (an explosion of tropical flowers seen through a window); and Set Up (a backdrop of clouds housed in a proscenium). In Blue Divide, Maychack suspends a sheet of colored clay from a cross-section of a wall-mounted branch and sands it smooth — making the clay embedded in the wood grain appear almost organic.