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Intricate designs, unique components demonstrate elaborate creative passion



If romantic art evokes heightened emotion and new ways of looking at the world, what does "Romantic Materialism" mean?


Signe Stuart, one of the three artists featured in the "Romantic Materialism" exhibition at Untitled [ArtSpace], defines the term as reflecting the passion artists bring to new mediums and materials.

The exhibition, which runs through Aug. 30, features work born from the artists' exploration of unconventional media. Stuart's installation, "In Silence," is a 40-foot passageway constructed from the multipurpose synthetic fiber called Tyvek "? a material impervious to liquid commonly used for packing materials, jumpsuits, tarps and lab coats.

"It's not paper, it's not cloth "? it's some miracle of modern technology," Stuart said with a laugh, before explaining how she cut the material into strips. She used the fiber to spin a silk-like mesh, which she draped from the ceiling to create a 9-foot-tall passageway, through which the public is invited to walk.

"The whole thing weighs less than 5 pounds, so it is a very delicate structure, like a spiderweb," she said.

Jesse Small's work shrugs away the strident minimalism of modern design, returning to the days where the walls of aristocratic society were laden with baroque detail and ornamentation. His largest piece will be an elaborate steel chandelier, with a dark, neo-Gothic feel.

"I'm trying to accomplish a rich experience utilizing geometric dimensions and combining human logic with more organic elements such as the environment, nature, the sun "? these things that are much bigger than us," Small said.

By using modern techniques and materials to return to decadent forms, Small said he is trying to revive the spirit of elaborate decoration that was lost at the expense of industrialization.

"People think of modernization as a philosophy, but that philosophy was kind of reverse engineered out of necessity," he said. "When you are moving from a cottage society to industrialization, you don't have the time to decorate everything. It's crazy that after thousands of years, someone just poked their head up and said, 'Maybe we don't need all this curlicue crap on the walls.'"

Small's work isn't exactly a return to ornate Victorian design, but rather taking that desire to create intricate detail and embellishment into a more modern, even futuristic direction. He said he's recently taken to creating work that hints at ghostly forms, dead trees and even a bit of a "haunted house" vibe.

"I'm not sure why I started doing it," he said. "Maybe I'm just trying to breathe life and theatrics to the work."

The actual process of creation is his favorite part: watching the images emerge as he experiments and cuts away the metal. Like a proper romantic, Small wants his work to bristle with intensity and vibrancy with little concern for the virtues of subtlety.

"There is a lot of cutting out to create this matrix of pattern work," he said. "Whenever you look at the piece, I want you to get the idea that this person is out of their mind and putting way too much time into the material."

"?Charles Martin


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