by David M. Roth
Subspace Biographies, Jud Bergeron’s second show at Nancy Toomey, opens with a series of constructivist drawings that look as if they’d been dropped from the studios of Alexander Rodchenko or El Lissitzky — perfect throwbacks to a time when the graphic arts in Russia were proclaiming the glories of heavy industry. None, however, offer any hints as to how the artist subsequently redeployed those ideas in a Cubo-Futurist mode. Where Picasso and Braque destabilized vision by rendering familiar objects as colliding geometric planes, Bergeron, working with CAD tools, including 3-D printers, appears to have reverse engineered the process, employing a textbook’s worth of such shapes to create 3-D forms that are both strange and familiar, all resolutely stolid.
Each of these objects, right down to the pedestals, tables and sawhorses on which they rest, are exquisitely crafted and finished, with either scratchy surface patterns resembling pictographs or patinas that convincingly replicate those seen in polished marble. Details aside, it’s the multi-faceted shapes, some vaguely reminiscent of exploded geodes, that command attention, balancing positive and negative space in equal measure.
Some, like A Trophy Mule in Particular, resemble space-age structures like those designed by Oscar Niemeyer for Brasilia. Another, My Dream Making Machine, a vertical stack of block “letters,” recalls Pacific Northwest totems, while Unshaven Bird brings to mind rock arches of the sort seen in the American Southwest. Flotilla, if upscaled, would work well as a piece of brutalist architecture. Equally compelling is a wall of relief sculptures: 10 squares populated with heraldic shapes that portend linguistic meaning without delivering any – a provocation that accumulates force as you work through the series.
The question that lingered when I left the gallery was this: Why hasn’t some ultra-hip architectural firm employed this guy? Any of these works, if built out, would fare well in wide-open spaces. As adjuncts to, say, City, Michael Heizer’s megasculpture in the Nevada desert? It’s easy to envision.
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Jud Bergeron: “Subspace Biographies” @ Nancy Toomey Fine Art through March 25, 2023.
About the author: David M. Roth is the editor, publisher and founder of Squarecylinder, where, since 2009, he has published over 400 reviews of Bay Area exhibitions. He was previously a contributor to Artweek and Art Ltd. and senior editor for art and culture at the Sacramento News & Review.