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Swallow and Vance
Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botanical Garden, Pasadena, California
Recommendation by Diane Calder

Contemporary artists Ricky Swallow and Lesley Vance, command an upstairs gallery that traditionally houses 18th century decorative arts.


Continuing through March 11, 2013


Not since the 2008 restoration of the Beaux-Arts mansion that Henry and Arabella Huntington called home, when decorators erected a cheeky cardboard stand-in to serve as the place saver for an elegant grandfather clock, has there been such an unprecedented tweak to the historic permanent collection housed in the Huntington Art Gallery. The current eye opening assault, in the form of an inspiring collection of contemporary bronze sculptures and abstract oil paintings by Ricky Swallow and Lesley Vance, commands an upstairs gallery that formerly housed a collection of 18th century decorative arts. 


“Descending Figure,” the largest work in bronze Swallow has created to date, ushers visitors into the sunlit gallery. Positioned at the top of the stairs, Swallow’s bronze sculpture, impeccably finished in a flat black patina, retains all the marks of its fragile origin as a collection of various cardboard cylinders held in position by tape. Swallow’s focus on process dominates, but does not obscure the intriguing allegorical and art historical associations emanating from his work. “Descending Figure” could be thought of as a re-interpretation of the Huntington’s treasured “Diana” that has “had work done” by artists Picasso, Duchamp, David Smith and/or Tim Hawkinson. 


Smaller sculptured variations on simple household objects by Swallow interact handily with unframed, modestly sized but dynamic oil on linen pictorial illusions in light, color and space by Vance. The painter’s work suggests vibrantly colored elements transitioning out of deep, dark space. In this, their first collaborative exhibition, the married couple’s highly individualistic works, carefully selected, installed and displayed, enhance each other’s contributions to this jewel of an exhibition, reinvigorating the Huntington’s collection 


Published courtesy of ArtSceneCal ©2012

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