Building A Bridge – Terry Durst brings together emotion and content
Frank Green – The Cleveland Free Times March 24, 1999 (an excerpt)
If you wanted to build a bridge over the wide river that so often divides artists specializing in crude emotional expression from those who prefer refined conceptual rigor, Terry Durst would be the ideal architect and engineer. He’d insist on building the span with his own two hands, so it might take awhile to complete, but it’d be worth the wait. When construction was finished, people on both sides of the great divide – the raw and the cooked, the heart clan and the mind tribe – could meet in the middle to fornicate and debate. While the elders of both nations marvel at the solid footing provided by technical mastery, whippersnappers could snicker at the trickster bravado of making something brand new look as old as dirt.
Durst’s show, consisting of four new sculptural relief assemblages at the Southside Gallery, is as refined as a mathematical treatise and yet boldly expressive, like a primal scream. Though they’ve been labored over carefully, the sculptures achieve an effect of raw immediacy, a rough expressiveness that belies their finesse. Each sculpture is crafted from cast-off pieces of wood that have been cut, drilled, gouged, filed and otherwise manipulated in the studio, together with found bits of metal, glass, plastic, wire and other materials assembled and over-painted with a dominant black, so that the finished work looks like it was carved from a single block of wood.
The four works in the current exhibition share a number of defining characteristics, including a provocative alteration of interior and exterior forms. Stowaway is divided into eight smaller rectangular sections, each framed with a border of extruding wood. The borders have a bare, skeletal, scaffold-like effect, contrasting with denser areas inside each compartment, which are layered with softer looking material.
It’s as if the walls have been blasted off a house, exposing the frame holding it together and the domestic secrets inside, or as if layers of skin have been peeled away from a body, revealing the bones flowing veins hidden underneath. But due to a dense layering of objects and surfaces, things are shrouded as much as displayed. The teasing inherent in this simultaneous obscuration and revelation of forms lends a tantalizing suggestion of intimacy to the aura of mystery inherent in abstract work.
The old west is conjured back to life in Frontier, a piece that harkens back to some of Durst’s earlier sculptural work with it’s use of odd icons of popular culture. Dual spindles join together to form the horns of a steer at a metaphoric horizon line near the top of the sculpture, surmounted by charred shards of wood radiating out like the rays of the sun. Underneath the horizon line is a tabernacle-like earth emblazoned with galloping buffalo and twin cowboys shot full of holes. This piece shows a deep appreciation of landscape as metaphor and embodies a tribute to the ghost town ambience of the exhibition in general. With their careful decrepitude and use of weathered wood, all the sculptures look a little like artifacts left over from the days of the old frontier.
Another important characteristic of the work is its use of symmetrical duality. Most of the major forms are mirrored on the opposite ide of the construction. The sculptures mimic in an abstract way the structure of the human body, with its dual arms, legs, eyes, wars, nostrils, lungs, hemispheres of the brain, etc. This quality of abstract human figuration becomes very clear in a piece like Denizen, with its central ribcage-like structure, but its present in all the work.
Terry Durst takes sculptural assemblage to new heights, not only locally, but internationally. It’s a pity his work isn’t better known and more widely collected.
Terry Durst - New Work - Sculpture
March 6 thru April 11, 1999 - music by Hoobajoob