Thomas Kiesewetter

Jack Tilton Gallery January 6–February 10, 2007

Thomas Kiesewetter’s new small bronze castings from cardboard have a fine, waxy, almost edible surface, which, combined with their black patina, led one viewer at the opening to compare them to “licorice.” They are likable works; in fact, delicious. Until recently Kiesewetter’s work consisted of sturdy pieces banged—almost wrestled—together out of sheet metal and painted in the grayed-out pastels of toy cars from the 1930s, and like some serious-minded toy, they had an intense but joyful feeling without ever reminding one of anything but self-contained, formal objects; in their gestalt they did not seem to refer to anything but sculpture itself, with roots in constructivism and David Smith.

The most interesting thing about the current show, which also includes examples of Kiesewetter’s sheet metal work, is the way the bolts and joinings from their fabrication is translated differently by the different media: the careful little serrated lips of the cardboard originals turned to metal, and the sheet metal tacked together like cardboard. There is something distinctly pseudo-mechanical, even nostalgic, about the older work, referring to a period in which the industrial object might have had a kind of integrity in its manufacture, before the era of plastic surfaces and built-in obsolescence. Their size emphasizes their direct relationship to the person who constructed them, the way he would have moved around them. In contrast, some of the newer pieces have an anthropomorphic appearance, with (perhaps too many) limbs all in motion, like a Greek portrait of an athlete from the Severe period. It’s hard to tell by looking whether this was intentional or if the use of cardboard, in its nature, invited experiments with appendages and verticality. Or maybe it was the other way around. One of the hammered sculptures has a turd-like rope of cotton balls dangling from it, a bridge, as it were, from one medium to the other; a negligent and charming concession to something other than the rugged and utilitarian look of these rough little works.

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