I like to think I don’t have much sensitivity for sculpture, because I prefer empty space to clutter. So, when I connect with a sculpture show, I feel like it must be really great. Because of my intolerance. That was no fake smile, no fake gasp, the day I walked into the Leslie Curran Gallery that holds the new sculpture show by Florida artist Charles Parkhill.
The body of work that Parkhill created specifically for this exhibition SITE | LINE: Charles Parkhill features interplaying dynamics of colors and material evoking the likes of the Southwest (I later spot titles like “Arroyo” and “Mojave”), an understanding of how things move in circles or shoot up from the ground with a force, the rhythm and movement of the natural world–pale, natural colors reminiscent of the desert, of San Diego, of Florida, those areas washed out and worn down by wind, water and sand that leaves you with a vast timeless calm that breaks your heart, stretching moments to infinity.
The whole show breathes; you walk in and the room is breathing. The entire gallery catches your eye at once. The wood, the airy flow, the empty spaces and the way he weaves his materials around the emptiness. This solo exhibition highlights his winning combination of discipline, technicality and open creativity that will ensure anything he makes will be of good quality in some way. Even a “bad piece” Charles made would retain a useful amusement. But I’m not here to judge, I’m here to contextualize what I see, for the most part.
Charles writes that expensive, exotic wood serves him no purpose unless it holds the patina of time and wear. Without a history to the wood, he has nothing to extract from the mass.
“I choose wood salvaged from older buildings that are under renovation as my primary working medium,” he writes in his artist statement. “In selecting the wood from which to construct a work, I prefer salvaged material…The color, grain, old paint, dents, scratches, and nail holes give the surface a character and history that is incorporated into the look and feel of the work.”
Charles manages to combine wood and cement the way a fashion editor might pair a pale satin tie with a pale velvet jacket — understated, daring, confident, particular. He sticks a giant red slice in the window facing Central Avenue, which was my least favorite piece in the show because the texture on the slice doesn’t match what the texture in a slice of anything would look like. Unless that was a slice of cheese with a wash of overlapping tiny roof slats across the surface. I imagine I’ll love it more once he tells me more about it. It usually works that way. Some pieces are freestanding, some mounted. He made a sleek bench that sits like an alligator with its open mouth, a crude simple form, sanded and painted, like something they’d make at the Bauhaus.
Organic shapes grow and pop in and out of my periphery around the room like we’re in a Dr. Seuss book.
Everything Charles touches is elegant, he’s refined his impulses to such a degree over time, I don’t really know what else to say but what a clear, pure feeling I get standing in a room of his work. Really a pleasure.
Site | Line: Charles Parkhill is on view Leslie Curran Gallery & Custom Framing through February 17