Robert Steele Gallery
February 2 – March 3, 2004
A painful ambivalence emerges from a viewing of Lee Tribe’s show Prayers, Angels and Spirits. Tribe uses constructed steel to make sculptures that have a feeling of totemic obsession and pre-industrial roughness, from tiny amulets formed of bolts and other metal scraps to a giant bent phallus with two heads. Tribe started out as a boilermaker but unlike Julian Schnabel, whose scabrous, dinner-plate encrusted surfaces are a kind of vengeful meditation on his days of waiting tables, his early experience seems to have instilled in him only the most ardent feelings for steel and its manipulation. He uses the medium easily, as if it were pliant and naturally sloppy. Brainpan-sized pieces have the choppy expressiveness of a ball of clay absentmindedly modeled by Rodin. Many of the works are colored in wax patinas of white, sienna and a beautiful gray-black, displaying the loving and tactile engagement with his craft that is Tribe’s strength.
Yet there is something anal, even stuffy about the works, like someone worrying the loose tooth of early twentieth-century Africanism. This quality, as well as the work’s aesthetic of agglomeration, emerges most forcefully in the charcoal drawings on display, all depicting balls squashed together and rendered with precise shading. A squat, featureless figure like a sullen snowman reflects the drawings in the tumorous growths appended to it, and although the finicky feeling is diminished through the process of affixing metal to metal, somehow it is still palpable. There is overall an affinity for rods and balls, which may be a celebration of the life principle but to this female viewer feels a bit tedious and insistent, like a guy on the subway rearranging his package.
Would it be fair to say that Picasso, in his use of African art, was able to tap into a force that is no longer available the contemporary artist? Is the problem simply an accumulation of self-consciousness around the idea of “getting to the core” in art? Or is it simply that Picasso was… Picasso? If I am not mistaken, Tribe is attempting to peel off Dadaism, conceptualism, postmodernism and a hundred years of history to arrive at some more essential reality, and I do not denigrate the attempt, nor Tribe’s sincerity, his eye, nor his ability to manipulate the materials. But the rawness of his work feels fully cooked.
Mark di Suvero: Steel Like PaperBy Jessica Holmes
JUNE 2023 | ArtSeen
Mark di Suvero: Steel Like Paper, now on view at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas and organized by the museums Chief Curator Jed Morse, includes thirty sculptures in addition to a wide array of lesser known drawings and paintings. Across these bodies of work, which span from the late 1950s through the present, di Suveros much-lauded vitality and generosity of spirit pervades the show, bestowing the viewer with a lingering sense of joie de vivre that is sometimes hard to come by in an oft-antiseptic contemporary museum setting.
Dorothea Rockburne: Giottos Angels & KnotsBy Joseph Masheck
DEC 21-JAN 22 | ArtSeen
Dorothea Rockburne was a mainstay of Postminialism, which was fine when people knew what Minimalism meant. The title of her new exhibition, of drawings, relief paintings and sculptures of the past two years, alludes partly to Giottos Arena Chapel frescoes, and partly to the knot as a modern thought motif; the latter interests her mathematically, and me art-theoretically.
Tony Cragg: Sculptures and Works on PaperBy Phyllis Tuchman
APRIL 2023 | ArtSeen
Possessing a well-honed, singular formal intelligence, Cragg breathes life into vibrant entities. He masterfully sets in motion rhythmic passages. Repetitive waves wash across his sculptures and enliven his compelling surfaces. His art is fluid, not unchangeable.
Is our obsession with money a curse to humanity?By Phyllis Hollis
JUNE 2023 | Critics Page
After spending decades in institutional financial services as a successful top sales producer, and then in the position of CEO of an institutional broker-dealer, I became less interested in material things and more interested in everything elseprimarily the visual arts. I decided to explore this impulse.