The totemic language of sculpture has informed Herb Alpert’s work for the past 20 years. Totemism refers to kinship as well as a belief system associated with shamanistic religions, where the totem guides one through life in the physical and spiritual worlds. The artist handcrafts the works in “Black Totem” by creating vertical forms in wet clay of human and animal forms morphing into each other. Because Alpert works with his hands to create the shapes and not with tools, the surface qualities of the totems are organic and mystical. After the clay is set the totems are molded and cast in bronze with a black patina to a size ranging from 8 to 20 feet in height. It is impossible not to feel like a human chess piece weaving in and out of a dozen mammoth totems, dwarfed as you are by Alpert’s handmade and lucid creations. The vertical forms rise like smoke from the ashes, and the play of positive and negative space between the forms creates an undulating rhythm inspires the eye as its mystery unfolds.
Published courtesy of ArtScene ©2010