Sculpture Magazine - July/August 2003 vol.22 No.6

Reviews: New York - Deborah Masters at Maurice Arlos Fine Art
By Jonathon Goodman

Art in Armerica - February 2003

Deborah Masters at Maurice Arlos and Smack Mellon By Lilly Wei

New York Times - September 27, 2002

'Sacred Matter’
- Karen Dolmanisth and Deborah Masters By Holland Cotter - Smack Mellon Studios

Vie Des Arts - 2001

DEBORAH MASTERS - An American in New York By Paquerette Villeneuve

The Brooklyn Papers “GO”: January 13, 2003

Thinking Big - Sculptor Deborah Masters Talks about her ‘Angel’ in the Brooklyn Public Library
By Lisa J. Curtis

Art in America - March 1992

Deborah Masters at LedisFlam By Nancy Princenthal

Village Voice - January 23, 1990

“Women in Command”

By Arlene Raven

Art in America -June 2001

Public Art in New JFK Terminal By Cathy Lebowitz

The New York Times - The Arts -Thursday, May 24, 2001

Being Met At the Airport By New Art - Big, Bold Installations For a Rebuilt Kennedy Arrivals Terminal

Art in America - ART WORLD - April, 2002


Greenline- Revelations- Artist and Activist

Brigette by Barbara Schaeffer

Philadelphia Inquirer- In Sculptor's Figures, A Mysterious Gravity

NY Times- Dith Pran- Front Page Sunday Times

The New York Times - Friday, October 4, 2002

ART GUIDE - Last Chance

Newsday -City - Thursday April 26, 2001

Missing Cloth’s No Cover-Up

By Pete Bowles

CRAIN’S New York Business - Jan. 28-Feb. 4, 2001

The Fine Art of Traveling

Daily News - Wednesday, April 25, 2001

“Artist Adds Loincloth to Jesus in JFK Mural”

By Warren Woodberry Jr.

The New York Times -The Metro Section - Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Blushing, Then Brushing, Artist Covers Nude Christ

DIE ZEIT - 4/6/2002 

Hipster auf Asbest
Nur eins stört den industriellen Charme im Szeneviertel Williamsburg: die Industrie
Thomas Fischermann

New York Times - Making ‘Dwell Time’ Fly Just a Little Faster

New $1.4 Billion Terminal at J.F.K. Aims to Ease Waits for Passengers
By Ronald Smothers

The North Brooklyn Community News-GREENLINE- January 6- Feb 27, 2003

Crossing Brooklyn: Angel in Crown Heights
Deborah Masters, April 24, 2001
Jesus' groin painted over after complaints

Above the Immigration Hall, Walking New York

Describing the theme of her narrative relief panels mounted on a 300-foot wide space above the immigration booths, sculptor Deborah Masters emphasizes the familiar, as well as the diverse in New York

Hemispheres - August 2001

Terminal Bliss
/ New York's JFK
By David Butwin

Interior Design - 9/1/2001

First Class - Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designs a new international terminal at JFK. By Edie Cohen

Los Angeles Times - Sunday, May 20, 2001

“New York’s JFK Airport Opens a New Terminal”

Brooklyn Bridge - September 1996

“Casts of Thousands”

By Bonnie Schwartz

New York Times - LedisFlam
April 1, 1988

Blue Angel:
The Decline of Sexual Stereotypes in Post-Feminist Sculpture By Michael Brenson

New York Times - LedisFlam -
March 3, 1989

Beyond Slickness: Sculptors Get Back to Basics”
By Michael Brenson

Village Voice - March 9th, 1993

LedisFlam - ‘Covert Action’
By Elizabeth Hess

Chico Enterprise Record - August 17, 1990

“Garden of Statues Grows at Chico State”


A Publication of the Art Department of California State University at Chico
“The Monoliths Have Landed”

The Daily News-Wednesday April 25, 2001

Mural Modesty - After complaint, artist adds loincloth to nude figure of Jesus - By Paul Mose

Newsday Copy- Profile- Sheila McKenna

ARTLETTER 1989-1990 Edition

“Visiting Artists & Scholars”
- Deborah Masters
California State University, Chico

Style: The Washington Post -Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Forsaken Warehouse District Is New York’s Latest Art Home
By Blake Gopnik

Gracie Mansion Gallery - Arts Magazine

“New York in Review”

By Robert Mahoney

Art in America - LedisFlam

Women at War 1993
By Ruth Bass

The New Zealand Hereld, World News - Thursday, April 26, 2001

X-rated Jesus given face-saving Y-fronts

JFK Catalogue Copy

The Brooklyn Phoenix - October 1988

‘Trails of Showing Sculpture in Park’

Chico Enterprise Record - Friday, August 17, 1990

“Three Sisters and a Rose Garden”

The Orion - January 30, 1991

Sister, Sister: Masters’ Final Sculpture Project Looks Inward”
By Courtney Rastatter

The Orion - 1991

“Sculpture’s New Location Solves Controversy”

By Lauren Dodge

PennState Harrisburg Currents -
Fall 1990

“Sculpture Garden Receives an Angel”

Eureka Standard- Jesse

New Yorker, Nancy Ramsey, Loft Tenants

Brooklyn Magazine
Brooklyn Artists, The Newest Left Bank
Amy Virshup, 1986


New York Times
LedisFlam March 3, 1989
“Beyond Slickness: Sculptors Get Back to Basics”
By Michael Brenson

In a season when the New York art world may seem to be wrapped in slick surfaces, status, and money, three surprising sculpture shows, in three different boroughs, zero in on a more naked and physical reality. Each show is, in a way, exclusive. All 11 artists in one are black; all six artists in another are women; in the third, the four artists are men. Yet all three shows are involved with big feelings and a search for experience that is shared and elemental.
“Traditions and Transformations: Contemporary Afro-American Sculpture,” at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, uses the work of black artists- as familiar as Martin Puryear, Sam Gillliam and Richard Hunt, and as unfamiliar as Maren Hassinger and Tyrone Mitchell- to call attention to the vitality of sculpture by black Americans.
“In a Dark Vein,” at the sculpture center in Manhattan, presents work by women who use the human figure to shape feelings of fear, loss, and pain.
“Four Americans: Aspects of Current Sculpture,” at the Brooklyn Museum, catches Joel Fisher, Mel Kendrick, Robert Lobe and John Newman at or near mid-career, a the precise point when all of them are working toward a more inclusive and monumental statement.
Almost all of the artists in these three shows use a hands-on approach and remain involved in the entire sculptural process. For all of them, the idea of a particularly American art makes little or no sense. They move easily across cultures and through the history of art, and within their work build an artistic community that is international.
Within all three shows, terms like radical and conservative are inappropriate. For example, if you are going to hold up these black sculptors to the tradition of the new, you are not going to bridge cultures and navigate the turbulent and liberating water of memory.
Melvin Edwards’s “Lynch Fragments” are at the heart of the Bronx Museum show, and they are a remarkable achievement. In these small reliefs, around a foot tall and installed at eye level, Western traditions of welding and assemblage are combined with African traditions of fetishes and masks. Objects used as tools by slaves and as instruments of violence against slaves- including ax heads, stakes, hammers, vises and chains- are cut and welded into eloquent expressions of rage, warning, hope and joy.
The terms radical and conservative cannot help with the Sculpture Center show either. If you are going to reject figurative sculpture out of hand, you are going to miss the ability of sculptors to use the figure to recreate man and woman in their own image and to pressure visitors to face the way they feel about themselves. With so much attention paid to super-sophisticated, super-self-conscious new art, it may be the kind of “old” art at the Sculpture Center that is most difficult to bear.
The artist Mary Ann Unger is the curator, and the struggle with cancer that inspired the show informs her work. Her “Eve Cast Out” is a woman in a skirt, bending over elegantly like a danced- or like a German Expressionist refugee by Ernst Barlach- her mouth open, her fire-black hands reaching for the middle of her back. In Ms. Unger’s “Guardian,” a naked woman cut off below the waist, hands on hips, her mouth a pit facing the sky, suggests a Degas ironer or dancer. But this earthly figure has arms like wings and breasts like missiles. This is a fertility goddess, but of a peculiar kind- one who is both insisting on her fecundity and crying to get out of her skin.
Charlotta Kotik, the curator of the Brooklyn Museum show, believes that right now there is something of a return back to basics. “Most of the sculptors whose work commends our attention are neither trying to create radically new concepts nor trying to dissociate themselves from those created in the past,” she writes in the catalogue. “Rather a deeply felt need, anchored within a solid knowledge of the evolution of the sculptural medium of this century, propels a large number of these artists to reinvestigate the intricacies of space, volume and mass.”
The tension within contemporary sculpture between a commitment to a high degree of self-consciousness and a need to deal with feelings in a raw and immediate manner is one of the currents running through her show. The best example is Mr. Kendrick, who cuts up trees and then recombines them to give the sculpture a Cubistic, figurative and often tribal presence. He wants the viewer to be conscious of everything. He wants us to see wood as wood, base as base, sculpture as sculpture.
But he also wants something more. As much as he makes a point of disjunctiveness and disunity, he is also drawn to organic growth and wholeness. What is revealing about the current artistic moment is that his most recent sculpture is one of the largest, simplest, and most personal he has done. “Big Tree” is seven feet tall. It is cut and reassembled, but in big chunks, and it seems as heavy and shaggy as wood in the wild. In the catalogue, Mr. Kendrick discusses this alert, chopped-up, dignified creature as “my presence.”
The increasing concern with large-scale and psychological and sculptural gravity can be felt in the work of the three other artists in the show. Mt Fisher is after everything. Together his works refer to the four elements. While he may be best known for his raucous, whiplash stick figures, he also makes fully three-dimensional sculptures, like “S,” with its cylindrical head and low-slung body shifting elegantly in space.
“Wave,” Mr. Fisher’s newest work, is 7 feet long and 6 feet wide. It is like a headless reclining figure or a sea monster, but its big slithering body also has arms or legs. Mr. Fisher, like William Tucker and Alain Kirili, is trying to reinvent monumental sculpture through modeling, a method that leads away from welded steel sculpture and Minimalism, and back to Rodin. In “Wave,” he uses clay to create a flamelike, earthy sculpture about air and water.
Mr. Newman started out even closer to Minimalism. His work, influenced by science and linguistics as well as music and art, has become an increasingly personal and expressive. His 1986 “Trumpeter’s Case”- lying on the floor like a coffin, or a fallen figure, or a chrch bell waiting to be raised and rung- was inspired by his mother’s death. “Inside the Cylinders that are never silent and a molecular, terra-cotta heart- was inspired by the death of his father.
One theme of “In a Dark Vein” at the Sculpture Center is sculpture and crisis. Nancy Fried, Arlene Love, Deborah Masters, Louise McCagg, Alison Saar and Ms. Unger use numerous sculpture traditions in their search for images that can both express and stop suffering. The prototypes for Ms. Fried’s sculptures are Asian and South American. Her terra-cotta heads- one spewing tiny breasts, another with miniature breasts set in wounds like jewels in a chain and a third, called “Life’s Bitter Pill,” with a face like a cookie on its defiantly extended tongue- are deliberate, sometimes witty renderings of extreme emotional states.
Ms. Love makes skulls, some grotesque, some sinister, some comic, some moronic, and places them on pedestals, like the fabric heads by Magdalena Abakanowicz, or mounts them on a wall, like Maura Sheehad, who, along with Ms. Love, has first-hand knowledge of Mexican art. Ms. McCagg’s quirky, troubling, oracular “Figures I and II” are almost Bruegelseque. Modeled with real flair and plaster and coated with shoe polish, each of these short, skinny, armless and headless women is at a point of intersection between heaven and hell.
Another theme of the show is mythology and the female body shaped by a woman’s hand. For example, Ms. Masters’s “Jesse” suggests classical images of the Good Sheperd, or Picasso’s “Man With Sheep,” but her classical figure is a woman, and she is holding, carrying or offering her dying dog. Ms. Saar’s Lazarus is not male but female. It was inspired not by Christianity but African legend. Dark blue and larger than life, made of wood and metal, with sores of cheap glass and breasts and buttocks held in place by tape and tacks. This is a funny and pointed work.
Ms. Saar is also in “Traditions and Transformations,” at the Bronx Museum. The exhibition, organized by its chief curator, Philip Verre, spans three generations, from Elizabeth Catlett to Ms. Saar. Although not all the artists are well represented and the art is very uneven, the show makes two important points. One is the contribution of blacks to American sculpture. And with work by black artists responding to other black artists, the show also demonstrates that a tradition of sculpture by black Americans is firmly in place.
The tone of the show is suggested by the complex multimedia constructions of Howardena Pindell. They were formed by slicing up postcards- many gathered in Japan and India- then attaching them to museum board and painting in and around them. While they are travelogues and fans, they are also personal narratives and disembodied faces, shoulders and breasts; and they are pieces of armor and shields. These works are international in scope. They are confident, curious, soft and sharp.
This feeling for synthesis, ritual and conflict is present in Mr. Puryear’s 1974 “Raqhide Cone,” a wall piece that looks like a breast with a tattered nipple. It is present in Ms. Hassinger’s exposed trees, made with cable and planted in cement- two industrial materials identified with the destruction of nature. It is present in the archeological installations by Houston Conwill, with its dusty ring and mirrors and its symbols embedded in compartments for the future to excavate. It is present as well in the black architectural sculptures of George Smith, whose “Labyrinth Mastaba for S.B.” is a maquette for a flat-top temple offering sacrifice and redemption.
It is clear from this show that these artists couldn’t care less about most of the issues that have been hotly debated in influential American galleries and museums this decade. It is not that the artists are uninformed. All are knowledgeable, and all feel a real connection with postwar American art. But almost all of them trust other artistic traditions, particularly those of Africa and Asia, as much as if not more. With an institutionalized art world that has had so little capacity or will to acknowledge what black artists have accomplished, it is easy to understand why.
Together these three exhibitions cut away some of the slickness of the current scene. And if many of these artists are involved in some kind of search for basics, there are undoubtedly plenty more. A shake-up is needed, and these shows suggest that it has begun.