Metal as Muse


Stephanie Hargrave

Metal is the thing tying together the two current exhibitions at Shift. Metal and marriage.

Carmi Weingrod and Ed McCarthy live and work together and have been showing their fine art together for six years at Shift Gallery, and while their art is quite different, this show in particular has a starting point that is similar in that metal was the muse.

Weingrod works on paper and has a lengthy drawing, painting and printmaking background. Her show, entitled Visceral, was inspired by a pile of metal scraps that intrigued her – it actually surprised her how attracted she was to it. McCarthy works in steel, sculpting colorful boxy shapes that often have sections, that fit together seamlessly, and make you want to run your hand along them. Taken as a whole, this show has paper and steel, paper sketches got made into steel objects, metal scraps inspired sketches, metal plates were embossed onto paper, and the overlap continued as the work progressed.

Where this couple depart is the finalized work. McCarthy’s pieces have a heavy permanence and are solidly colored. Weingrod’s often have an ethereal quality and can be highly textured, her palette earthier by comparison. Weingrod is deeply influenced by nature, and her piece 24 Views of Agnes was inspired by Agnes Creek in North Cascades National Park. It is a mini-installation based on glacial melt that “swells the creek and turns it into an intoxicating torrent of turquoise – a color as sublime as the Caribbean and as frothy as some exotic tropical drink.” This watercolor on paper mounted on wood panels, measuring 32” x 12” is a stunner. For many of the works in this show, she used a host of mixed-media materials and techniques and let the metal shapes dictate the pattern and flow of her drawings. Hand-embossing each form over and over allowed her to surrender intention to the “mesmerizing effects of repetition.” As she says in her statement, “instinct overtook thought. I got lost in the quirky edges, scaly textures, and welding slag. As I mindlessly pressed and embossed, the recurring patterns that emerged helped me convey on paper both the simplicity of the shapes and the complexity of the metal.” All of these paper works play well with Ed’s pieces, but the feel is completely different.

McCarthy creates industrial work using industrial materials. Even his palette is derived from the colors of the gas tanks outside his local welding supply store. His work speaks to nature too, only in a more playful, direct way. His forms mimic dogs and humans, and sometimes even a beast or two. They are sophisticated play, and they are here to stay – there is nothing fleeting about them, like Weingrod’s creek – they are heavy, rich in humor, and the large ones must be very difficult to move. His background as an engineer shows, and you can tell he put a lot of thought into each design. His exhibit, aptly titled Industrial Art, pays tribute to the industrial processes he uses – plasma cutting, rolling curved forms, welding, grinding, and finally painting them after everything has been smoothed. Interestingly, he has filed down all the quirky edges, scaly textures and slag that so intrigued Weingrod.

Metal itself, in all its stages, informs both these artists, and together, the two of them have filled the gallery with that which is light and heavy, playful and more existential, earthy, textured, smoothed, and ultimately intriguing. It all makes you want to touch it whether you are observing from a window, in the room or up close. Already I feel curious as to what they will come up with for their show next year.

Carmi Weingrod and Ed McCarthy at Shift Gallery through June 30, 2018