High-spirited is the adjective that first came to mind looking at Manifest Gallery’s current Regional Showcase exhibition. Nine sculptures created by eight artists, all based in the Tristate region, pleasantly fill the entrance gallery. The works are linked by their makers’ clear enjoyment in fashioning objects from materials as varied as plaster, cast iron, densified polyester and even reeds, plus a few other things including the stand-by “mixed media.”
Elizabeth Runyon’s “Greek to Me” plays with the shape of a Greek container, constructed for her purposes out of reeds. Its lower end twists into shapes most easily described as twirls, making the piece suitable for hanging only. “Greek to Me” measures perhaps 5 or 6 feet vertically, its materials clean and fresh, the antique shape new again. Runyon lives in Oxford, Ohio. Does this work suggest that in a college town classical references slip in easily?
Ben Lock, of another college town (Bowling Green, Ohio), has other implications on his mind. His “Rocker” is made of steel and cast iron, the shafts smooth and slender, the two matched curves that form its base simple in the extreme. Shape is the subject here, and when a shape takes on these proportions, it rocks. I think the sculptor may have had that admiring phrase in mind. “Rocker” stands probably 8 feet tall and the base is perhaps that long, end-to-end. The materials are extremely heavy but the work is easily set to movement, a slow and quiet rocking in place.
If weight controlled into gentle motion is part of the appeal of “Rocker,” Gary Schmitt of Indianapolis has his own tongue-in-cheek approach to materials and their expected heft. “Six Tools” is constructed of wool, wire and densified polyester, the latter a substance that looks about as one would expect from its name.
Among the six tools portrayed are a padlock, a miniature axe, an awl and what seems to be a small water flask, all made of the listed materials and mounted (as on a wall above a workbench) on a surface that is soft and almost hairy looking. Shape is one thing, but material carries the day and these “Tools” could not open a jar of jelly. They are fun to look at, though.
Another piece that seems to be something of an homage to tools, or perhaps just to the process of thinking through a work plan, is Jason Tanner Young’s “layout” (lower case “l” is deliberate). The piece juts from the wall at about waist height and seems to be a sketch gone three-dimensional. A Plexiglas frame dangles from a C-clamp; galvanized wire, cast bronze, copper, steel and tubing are listed as elements of this airy construction. Tanner works in Athens, Ohio.
The opposite of airy is “Anima,” Hunter Stamps’ complicated ceramic comment on what I take to be Carl Jung’s theory of the inner feminine elements within men’s psyches. Stamps’ “Anima” is a ceramic block, perhaps 18 inches up, down and across, all curves, folds and rounded openings, subtle colors and smooth surfaces. Perhaps “high-spirited” is not the adjective here. Contemplative? Layered? The piece, like other works in the show, is distinguished by its workmanship, as is usual for Manifest’s exhibitions.
For example: Mark Hanavan’s “Bound,” in material identified only as “mixed media,” presents a head study of a woman, her hair bound back in double chignons and a reflecting oval behind. The face is haunting, troubled — again, my initial “high-spirited” response misses the mark here, but she is memorable. Hanavan lives in Middletown, Ohio.
Travis Townsend (Lexington, Ky.), on the other hand, has a fine time with a tall, thin wall piece that has a swinging door to an inner niche and is lockable. He calls it “Some Sort of Personal Hangup,” made of found materials and unlike other works in the show (all dating from 2014 or 2013) this has a history stretching from 2004 to 2013.
Stefan Chinov’s two untitled works in dyed plaster and shellac are an exact opposite to Townsend’s in conception: pristine cubes of a few inches in dimension, but stacked whopper-jawed and wall mounted. Chinov is based in Dayton, Ohio.
Manifest, usually proud of the global range of its entries, chooses to concentrate on Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky for the Regional Showcase exhibitions.
“We’re happy to be featuring works by artists in our ‘backyard,’ ” says Manifest Director Jason Franz by email. “These works exist independently but maintain a spatial dialog.”
REGIONAL SHOWCASE: SCULPTURE continues through Sept. 12 at Manifest Gallery, 2727 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills. More information: 513-861-3638 or manifestgallery.org.