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Opened Ground: Kathleen Moroney

Through January 13th.(Ceramic Art Gallery, 65 Hope Street, Williamsburg 522-5367)

“Right as rain” is the expression that came to mind when I visited Kathleen Moroney’s installation “Opened Ground”.

There is a modest beauty and a sense of cleanliness and order to her sculpture that is reminiscent of a freshly swept earthen floor. The dark atmosphere she creates in the gallery is like the cool quiet retreat of a root cellar.

            This spare installation is a marriage of industrial and organic forms. It consists of three distinct elements: a white, undisguised electrical cord; a bone-colored spherical vessel of vitrified porcelain with a shape that recalls an onion; and a concrete block that has been stained and sanded smooth, resembling earth that has become stone. Viewed together, these forms create an elegant and intriguing dialogue.

            Moroney takes this visual phrase and repeats it serially, varying the length of the cords and the depth of the hollows in each block. She then sets these units in rows that recall both the foundation of a building and rows of planted crops. The three constituent elements cohere in a tight formal interdependence. The cords falling from the ceiling insert into the bulbs seamlessly as though they grow from them naturally. The blocks provide a sense of gravity, weight and durability as they receive the bulbs with a sense of anticipation. The bulbs are glowing and buoyant, illuminating and enriching the blocks as they articulate the depth of each interior. In these vessels one can see energy suspended and contained. Moroney hints at the notion of primordial fire, the genesis of all life; here that fire becomes electric light, a contemporary translation to the familiar and manmade.

            “Opened Ground” is austere without being sterile. It straddles the physical and the metaphysical as it richly evokes the earth, the city, the womb and the spark of life that fills and animates all living things.

            Moroney offers the viewer a wondrous quiet moment, a gift of reverie as one stands in near-total darkness to watch softly glowing bulbs drawn to the earthen colored blocks, each in its own time to be received gently, buoyant and full of hope, like happy memories stored tenderly for a lifetime.


Suzanne De Vegh


The Brooklyn Rail

JAN-FEB 2002

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