Friday, February 10th, 2012

Colored Like Burgundy: Tim Scott at Loretta Howard

Tim Scott in the 60s and 70s at Loretta Howard Gallery

January 12, 2012—February 25, 2012
525-531 West 26th Street
New York City, (212) 695-0164

British sculptor Tim Scott, long committed to an uncompromisingly abstract esthetic, has also shown an aptitude over the years for exploring a range of materials.  An exhibition of his work at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, NY, in 2010, combined steel-and-sheet-acrylic work from the ‘60s with what was in 2010 his newest series of smaller ceramic sculptures, “House of Clay”.  In the fall of 2011, a group show at the Poussin Gallery in London featured Scott’s current work, larger pieces made of naturally finished plywood (the “Woodwind” series). Loretta Howard Gallery offers a reminder of what first made him famous in the ebullient ‘60s, when the art world’s expanding ambition and tolerance for experiment led to sculptures not only large but composed of then-novel media; we also see him in the more subdued ‘70s, consolidating achievements of the previous decade.

Tim Scott, Counterpoint XIII, 1973-1974. Aluminum, steel and plexiglass block, 48 x 272.5 x 36 inches. Courtesy of Loretta Howard Gallery
Tim Scott, Counterpoint XIII, 1973-1974. Aluminum, steel and plexiglass block, 48 x 272.5 x 36 inches. Courtesy of Loretta Howard Gallery

With Philip King, William Tucker and Isaac Witkin, Scott belongs to the group of sculptors featured in New Generation: 1965, a groundbreaking exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.  At the time, Scott (b. 1937) was freshly emerged from the study and practice of architecture, as well as later study and teaching of sculpture at St. Martin’s School of Art, then a hotbed of constructivism as derived ultimately from Picasso and Julio Gonzalez, but carried on through David Smith, and (in England) Anthony Caro.  St. Martin’s, in the 60s, was heavily committed to color in sculpture, and the two pieces in this show from the ‘60s, Bird in Arras III (1968) and Wine (1969) are both appealingly colored, composed as they are of colored sheets of acrylic and tubes of painted steel. However, the four pieces from the ‘70s—the Counterpoint series—furnish quite a contrast, being more compact and bereft of color. Mostly composed of thick sheets and tubes of clear Plexiglas, they are held together by narrow blackish- brown steel bars and sometimes sheets of steel.

In both the work from the ‘60s and the ‘70s, surrounding air plays a role, but in the earlier work, it serves to outline and dramatize the movement of the sculpture, while with the later work, the transparency of the Plexiglas makes most of the sculptures almost appear to disappear. Either way, abundant pleasure is to be derived from this work.  Bird in Arras III, more than nine feet high and nineteen feet long, is a very light and delicate monster: its green metal skeleton rises in an arc to which five rectangular sheets of shiny acrylic have been bolted at right angles. The first three (on the left-hand, rising side of the arc) are a pale cream color, the fourth (on the descending side) a bolder yellow and the fifth (which nearly reaches the ground) a soft brown.  Altogether, it reads like a fluttering bird rising up, then gently descending—sort of an Eadweard Muybridge emblem of flight.  Wine, while more settled and sedate, combines an even more delicate skeleton on four narrow waist-high legs, all colored like a fine Burgundy, with two trapezoidal acrylic sheets, one a fuchsia rosé, the other more Pinot grigio (recalling that grigio is Italian for gray).

With the Plexiglas sculptures, their graceful transparency offers a tantalizing commentary on the chunky solidity of their outlines. In some ways, though, the most satisfying of that series in this show is Counterpoint XIII, (1973-1974) in which Plexiglas plays only a minor role, and muscular slabs and sheets of steel and aluminum dominate the composition. Though it must weigh a lot, nonetheless this piece shares the sleek elegance, lightness and airiness of the rest of the exhibition.

Tim Scott, Wine, 1969. Painted steel tubes and rods with acrylic sheets, 208.5 x 173.5 x 60 inches. Courtesy of Loretta Howard Gallery
click to enlarge