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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Natural feel for sculpture

City Gallery
994 State St., New Haven, (203) 782-2489
Nancy Eisenfeld: Out on a Limb
Through Oct. 4, 2009.
Opening reception: Sat., Sept. 12, 2—5 p.m.

With Out on a Limb, Nancy Eisenfeld continues and broadens her explorations of the past several years. The show includes several sculptural works composed using found objects from strolls in the woods: sloughed-off bark, branches, discarded construction wood, metal trash. There is a striving for organic integrity to the compositions but one that mirrors nature. Beauty and chaos, order and wildness.

The show features both Eisenfeld's sculptural works and drawings and, in several cases, a combination of the two. One such work is "Blaze." This large wall sculpture clusters panel, curling birch bark, sun-bleached branches, mylar and plastic mesh next to an incendiary abstract drawing. Executed with rubber stamps, charcoal, paint and spray paint, the drawing is a vision of black, almost graffitiesque shapes consumed by orange and bathed in gray smoke. It is a complex work, dense with layering both of materials and ideas.

The interplay of the fiery colors and the forest scraps intimate destruction and decay. But within and from those processes there is life, too. It is reflected in the vibrancy of Eisenfeld's line and brushwork in the drawing—and she paints, sparingly, into the found materials also—and in the undulating curls of the birch bark.

A sculptural work in one of the front windows, "Embers," has the feel of a monument. Burnt pieces of wood, some scorched to an almost anthracite glisten, are arranged within a circle bounded by a rusty ribbon of metal. It's like a miniature landscape of sheer obsidian stone forms. I felt like I wanted to be shrunk to an inch tall so I could wander through this ancient park like one does through the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon in Utah.

The works that are strictly drawings, such as "Smoldering Woods," "Rolling Stones" and "Erupting Shards," complement the sculptural works. The plethora of different media used—paint, spray paint, ink, charcoal, rubber stamps, line, brush strokes—provide a strong analog to the diversity of materials in the sculptural works.

For most of her career, Eisenfeld has worked in two dimensions. Her step into the third is not only bold but successful, too. There is a convincing solidity and confidence to her constructions that belie the short amount of time she has been engaged with this body of work.

There will be an artist's reception for this show this Saturday, Sept. 12, from 2—5 p.m.

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