Deliberate process and happy accidents


Ken Barnes: Biomorphic
at Shift Gallery through Dec. 17th

In Ken Barnes’ stone sculpture show BIOMORPHIC you do not need to read the title to know the genesis of the work.  Some pieces mimic life forms directly, as in the group of elegant green stone Corpuscles which, if miniaturized, could easily be coursing through our veins.  Others are more derivative; Fluke and Waiting showcase fluid organic shapes that evoke a whale’s tail and a seedpod respectively.

Barnes brought these shapes to life through a laborious and deliberate process that also makes room for happy accidents.  Oftentimes the stone took a dramatic turn during its formation, and its final state, while lovely, is quite different from what was initially intended, but all the better for the meandering path.  Vessel-Revived was created through an elaborate series of steps; the artist roughed out the basalt form, sliced it into horizontal plates, shaped them further, and re-assembled them into a whole for final shaping and polishing.  The top resembles a flowing calla lily with an elegant open interior, while the rest of the sculpture is more mechanical in its presentation. The work is meant as an homage to the German woodcarver Demetz.

Many of these pieces are presented in non-traditional fashion.  Horn, for example, is a twisted black stone balanced on a steel cradle.  This continues to be of interest to Barnes, but still to be determined is whether his evolution away from the purely abstract is a diversion or a longer-term direction.