Archive for April 28th, 2019

Many of Therrien’s sculptures

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

Many of Therrien’s sculptures are polychromed and the use of a painted surface over a sculptural form (largely rejected by minimalist sculpture), if followed in one direction, leads back to traditional folk art and religious statuary, both of which relied on colour to heighten the emotionality of the experience and to enhance the viewer’s identification with the object through an augmented realism. The relationship between the level of identification sponsored by an artwork and its degree of realism is, however, a complex one. Both indices depend on and fluctuate with varying historical notions of verisimilitude. (Increasing the emotional register of a work through the use of colour may well be at the expense of verisimilitude.) What is finally at issue here is the relation between a work’s degree of realism and its degree of authenticity and how this relationship is regulated by shifting and evolving historical circumstances and tolerances. With regard to Therrien’s work, the importance of this discussion is in noting that his art attempts to maximize both the concreteness of the sculpture as object and its emotional potency and to balance these attributes.

A complex, symbiotic relationship between shape and colour, objecthood, fantasy, memory and feeling applies to Therrien’s objects. Some of the key images in his lexicon are snowmen, ovals, cones and clouds. These are motifs he returns to over and over again. The impulse to repeat, rework and recycle his motifs is a prominent aspect of his activity as an artist. These are basic and compelling general features of the work and they reflect on its privacy and psychology as well as on the work’s relation to other contemporary art, which, at least since minimalism, has been regulated by themes of repetition, variation and reproduction. Repetition can entail and signal emotional attachment on the one hand but can also serve as a distancing, objectifying device. Both these aspects are implicated in Therrien’s use of it.

Repetition and variation enable a play between constancy and innovation. Intersecting formal and psychological leitmotifs reverberate among Therrien’s objects. The meaning of each object is amplified and modified by the next and all together they construct a network of entwined themes that emanate from and engender a particular realm of feeling and a field of aspiration.

Outpost Art Artscenecal

Outpost ARt Job

Therrien’s objects fall into various, overlapping sets or constellations, which organize themselves around certain formal resemblances, thematic affinities and emphases. “Bent Cone” (1984-5), “Flagpole Maquette” (1983-5), and “Keyhole” constitute one such grouping. The freestanding version of the black “Bent Cone” oscillates between an illusion of flatness and an illusion of spatial depth and recession. It has a quirky figurative aspect that grabs our interest yet what holds it is the evanescent condition of the figure. The apex of the triangular, conic shape serves as a fulcrum balancing two opposing movements in the work: a perspectival recession to a vanishing point and the pouring back of the shape from this point of origin into the material present. Accordingly, the work hovers between past and present, ellipsis and concreteness. A related work, the black “Flagpole Maquette,” reverses the perspectival recession of “Bent Cone” and is seen in extreme foreshortening, which anamorphically collapses and reduces its “actual,” normal size while magnifying its virtual aspect. Space/time is warped. The flagpole looms in space like Aladdin’s genie and, like “Bent Cone,” includes a nostalgic, sentimental dimension. “Bent Cone,” suggestive of a monumental sorcerer’s cap or token from a Brobdingnagian game board, also fantasizes its figure through a magnification of scale. The third work in this constellation of images, “Keyhole” combines the formal elements of the other two. It also involves an evanescent image and occupies the threshold of real and imaginary space. Each of these works evokes a virtual, hence remote and elusive space of enchantment.