Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What You See Is What You Get: Sculptor Richard Deacon Reveals Materials and Process

Richard Deacon
What You See Is What You Get
San Diego Museum of Art
Through July 25th

article by Cathy Breslaw
Richard Deacon     Under the Weather #1       wood     318 x 103 x 95 cm    2016

Artist Richard Deacon gives us clues to the nature of his work with exhibition title What You See Is What You Get. Deacon’s sculptures reveal the history of how they are created as well as using screws, magnets, fasteners and other finishing materials as functional artistic visual details that add beauty and a distinctively unique quality to his work.  Nothing is hidden in his sculpture – there are no underlying structures or armatures used in his organically created forms – the outside and the inside are one in the same.  

Winner of the Turner Prize, Deacon creates abstract sculpture from many materials including wood, metal, galvanized steel, ceramic, paper, vinyl, leather, and rubber, and sometimes combines these materials into single sculptures.  Deacon experiments with his materials - his wood sculptures are often created using a steaming technique that leaves a residue of the belts or material used to hold the parts together during the creation process.  The residue adds complexity and character to the surfaces and a certain authenticity to the works, revealing to the viewer the ‘hand’ of the artist. Deacon uses the steaming process to guide wood into twists and curves that we don’t inherently expect from this solid and hard material.  There is a formal compositional quality to many of the works and especially with the ceramic and paper works, a playfulness and levity not present in the steel sculptures. 

Deacon’s work ranges in scale from a huge-sized public art commission Distance No Object (1988) 103” x 147” x 240” originally created for MOCA Los Angeles to a small paper, epoxy resin and thread sculpture “…And…”  2 ¾” x 15 ¾” x 5 ¾”(1994). Dancing In Front of My Eyes(2006) and Dead Leg (2007) both created from wood, share a movement and rhythm reminiscent of expressionistic abstract painting. 

Also included in this exhibition are aquatint etchings, block prints and screenprints on paper and vinyl.  Closely relating to the forms of his sculptures, these works are not preliminary ‘drawings’ but beautifully crafted artworks.  Deacon sometimes calls himself a fabricator, but explains that fabrication has a double meaning – one is a piece of built material but the other is to make things up – it appears he does both.

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