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Malcolm Wright

Art New England, Feb/Mar 2008


Spheris Gallery
59 Main Street
Hanover, New Hampshire
October 20 - December 5, 2007

By Craig Stockwell

Malcolm Wright has always worked at clay and his earlier work established him as an American master of traditional Japanese pottery. His work has that strong quiet sculptural presence that a well-crafted functional object can achieve, but in recent years his exhibited work has moved into full abstract sculptural objects. During this transitional time there was a remarkable sculptural potential expressed, but I also sensed Wright revealing an uncertain wavering about passing into this realm of such bold uselessness. This exhibit leaves the wavering behind as Wright asserts himself as a sculptor. 

As a drawing teacher, I was immediately struck by what wonderful objects these would be to draw. I am always looking for forms that mimic the complex shapes and volumes of the human model, an object that can be carefully lit and then studied for modeled curves, dark deep crevices, and revelations of negative space. These new works reveal all that. “Three Figures,” is an object only14" high and yet it has the monumental presence of free-standing red stone mesas that I’ve seen in the Southwest. I know of a particular place in Zion National Park where a mesa contains a massive interior cave that is revealed, on the outside, only as a small vaginal opening. This work suggests such imagery. 

Another important element in these works is the remnant of force. Some of the finished sculptures clearly pass through moments, as moldable clay slabs, when they are shaped by force. For example, Cinched Form, after being formed is clearly tied by rope, and cinched. These works grow out of a conscious serial process, not a random expressiveness. It’s interesting to compare them, in this respect to the work of Peter Voulkos, the master of Expressionistic clay. And it is interesting to note, as well, that my consciousness of Wright’s process is a secondary reaction…first I am taken by form, color, surface…only then do I become aware of how this work came about. 

Other works exhibited feature the interactions between two, three or four grouped objects; the lovely spaces between these objects are often the point of their being. These works seem rooted in a Minimalist aesthetic that focuses attention on process, surface and relations. I find myself drawn to the objects that are solitary and consciously shaped. Wright is making the decision to form and present a more decisive sculptural object, this is a vulnerable and courageous moment and it is moving to see it succeed.