Sunday, August 18, 2013

Rachel David at Barrister's

Their forms can look as softly languid as flowers or even jellyfish, but were crafted out of the hardest of metals. Created in an age when automation makes many things happen instantly, these objects were  slowly forged with centuries-old techniques in a blacksmith shop while subjected to heat that often exceeded 2000 degrees. Even their appearance flaunts contradictory ideas about time, somehow melding 19th century art nouveau flourishes with futuristic science fiction overtones. And if the contrasts built into this Sitting Prone expo of Rachel David's steel and wrought iron metal sculptures seem endless, that only adds to their mystique. At a time when much of the world--including the global art world--can appear dessicated and demystified, her enigmatic objects radiate an almost alchemical presence. Yet, for all that, they are the mental offspring of an artist best known for useful objects like tables, lamps and candelabras as well as architectural elements like the serpentine gates at the Bywater Art Lofts and Sculpture Garden. Shifting from practical crafts to otherworldly sculptures should be quite challenging, but David's approach makes for a seamless transition.

Adding to the intrigue, she says she is inspired by interpersonal relations, which sounds like an odd basis for works like Still Life, bottom, an elaborate concoction of spindly forms like a hybrid mix of passion flower and a sea anemone. Yet, while very different species, both are attractive and interactive; one attracts bees to help it propagate while the other seduces its prey. Likewise, Transom, above, evokes vital biological relational realms while the enigmatic Encounter, top, suggests an  oversize seed pod with long, graceful jellyfish - like tendrils that descend to its base where they coil as languidly as a cobra in repose, and it's shocking to realize that they were once discarded machine parts or plumbing fixtures given a strange new life as reclaimed materials. So what do we make of all this? The ancient alchemists tried to make gold from lead, but blacksmithing such ethereal visions from the strongest of metals seems like a hardly less daunting proposition. ~D. Eric Bookhardt

Sitting Prone: New Metal Sculptures by Rachel David, through Sept. 7, Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506