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From Real to Ideal

Art New England, Oct/Nov 2001 


Brattleboro Museum & Art Center
Brattleboro, Vermont

By Craig Stockwell

This exhibit of 11 sculptors, curated by Mara Williams, is an ambitious show that carries a difficult title. Let’s ignore that and get to the work itself. My immediate impression was that I’d walked back into 1974; a gallery filled with natural materials worked into grids. This was not unpleasant and in the Vermont context it particularly addresses a regional interest in natural materials. In that sense it is a show that both references regional interests and insists on a very high standard of conception and execution. Elizabeth Billings woven work is an elegant achievement of visual grace. Ahren Ahrenholz works out of a rigorous “what-if” conceptualism. Ed Smith slides away from the heroic with his wall of clay and wood pieces that define the artist as one who works rather than achieves. Included are such international artists as Ursula von Rydingsvard, Zoe Leonard, and David Nash. The teaching mission that a regional museum must serve is well achieved by this show and the concurrent exhibitions that have created an overall sense of elegy or eulogy. Of particular note is a separate installation by Anna Schuleit, titled, “When at Last.” This is a complex and completely compelling work that evokes the soon to be demolished Northampton (MA) State Hospital.