Steely Resolve

Rust 3

Rust 3

Rust No Rust
Ed McCarthy at Shift Gallery through July 30


By Cynthia Hibbard

Ed McCarthy’s show Rust No Rust furthers his exploration of metal sculpture in the areas of geometry, surface texture and functional design.

On view are two series of utilitarian and non-utilitarian forms.

Rust 6

Rust 6

Nine wall-mounted and naturally weathered sculptures are combinations of seven 4-inch by 4-inch steel cubes welded face to face in various formations.  Noting that the options for fashioning seven cubes into forms are “seemingly endless,” McCarthy chose ones that both pleased him and cast intriguing shadows.

What he learned at his opening when an author on tiling sequences approached him is that the individual cubes in the 7-cube forms or “heptacubes” can be combined in 1,023 ways, according to a group of German mathematicians who studied them.

“And I thought I was being original,” McCarthy quipped.

Asked if he would pursue the remaining 1,014 cube combinations in his future sculptures, McCarthy demurred:  “I think that would take me the rest of my life.”

Rust 4

Rust 4

He was interested in naturally rusting his cube sculptures by exposing them to an entire Pacific Northwest winter, so as to develop deeply pitted and varied surface features.

In his second, “utilitarian” series of sleekly designed furniture, McCarthy went in the opposite direction to cover three of his four galvanized steel pieces in layers of bright orange powder coating.

Inspired by the furniture crafting of Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964) that he saw in an Amsterdam Museum and wanting to make sculptural furniture out of sheet metal, McCarthy took his cues from the DeStjil or neo- plasticism movement of the early 20th century that Rietveld followed. Its unifying principle was the creation art was based on grids, perpendicular lines and primary colors, such as the painting of Piet Mondrian.


In a direct homage to Rietveld, McCarthy re-created, in steel, a pair of the master’s mirrored image chairs that have become a furniture classic.  Gallery visitors are encouraged to try them out—or to sit on any of the other custom three other seats that McCarthy made built to last.

One powder-coated piece is based on McCarthy’s memory of the camp stools his family used as seating in their back yard.  The other is an original and intimate, arch-shape bench.  Both are weather-resistant.


So too is the fourth piece, an exaggeratedly narrow and upright steel chair McCarthy envisioned as perhaps a singular feature amid the wilds of an outdoor setting.

Continuing in this vein, McCarthy said he will maintain his focus on geometric forms but head towards larger scale and public art installations so as to fully satisfy his inclinations.  Said McCarthy: “I like that line between architecture and sculpture.”