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Bella Feldman and JP Long, 'Dialogue'
at Sculpturesite Gallery, San Francisco
Review by DeWitt Cheng

Nine years ago, JP Long became a studio assistant for the renowned Oakland sculptor Bella Feldman. Their collaboration, despite

Left: Bella Feldman, "Dyad," 2004, Steel and glass, 108" x 34" x 20"
Right: JP Long, "Edge 16," 2009, Glass and metal, 78" x 22" x 11"
Photos: courtesy of Sculpturesite Gallery

Nine years ago, JP Long became a studio assistant for the renowned Oakland sculptor Bella Feldman. Their collaboration, despite gender and generational differences, has proved a fortuitous one, as this show, highlighting their similarities and differences, demonstrates. Feldman pioneered the technique of blowing glass into steel forms; anyone who has seen her War Toys series remembers the elegant rightness of that marriage of materials, the swelling crystalline chambers connoting life, breath, and fragility, but set amid Feldman’s spiked, wheeled neo-Leonardo contraptions, they also suggest the science powering our high-tech murder delivery systems. Feldman says, “We seem now to be perpetually at war,” and her sculptures embody her politics, although the flawless craftsmanship, unerring sense of form, and intuition for metaphor make them timeless. Untitled is a steel sphere cannonball cut into half, like a cantaloupe; its thick walls nestle a glass dome, breast, or bomb, and curved teeth set into the opposite hemisphere hold it securely operational, sealed. Dyad and Cleft are tall V-shaped steel sculptures resembling calipers, wire nippers, nutcrackers—or up thrown legs. In the former, a conical glass stalagmite or horn rises from the juncture; in the latter, a metal-tipped glass rod hangs from a cable midway up, a pendant phallus. Feldman is also showing collages incorporating Victorian engravings of machinery with glass and steel; exuding danger and power (RPM 12, RPM 15, RPM 25), they’re Dada for our age of death-march capitalism.
Long’s work continues spiritual abstraction’s depiction of invisible essences. His three Edge series pieces, tall curved, pointed wedges, suggest plants, or birds standing, beaks skyward, as stylized by Brancusi or Moore—possible spires for some Church of Nature. Edge 16 features one leaf-bird; Edge 17, a pair, mother and child; Edge 18, a trio, or family, small, medium and large. In all of them, long droplets of glass hang from the heads past the curving thoraxes, metaphors for life force. The works in the Impression series use scores of glass rods gathered into matrices like those in pin board toys a few years ago; enclosed in dark steel cases, the shimmering glass stamens symbolize fragility and fertility.

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