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Ron van der Ende
at Ambach & Rice, Seattle, Washington
Review by Suzanne Beal

Inspired by history and pop culture, Ron van der Ende works at the peripheries of painting and sculpture.

Inspired by history and pop culture, Rotterdam artist Ron van der Ende works at the peripheries of painting and sculpture. Using discarded pieces of wood, he constructs wall-mounted mosaics in bas-relief that are dizzying in their ability to convey three-dimensionality. Their beauty nevertheless resides in the artist’s interest in tracing the ever-shifting arc of human craving and consumption – and to measure the abyss between aspiration and entity.

Van der Ende reduces his salvaged materials to three millimeter thick pieces of veneer (paint intact), which are then attached to plywood frames and nailed into place. Subjects range from the banal (cassette tapes) to the breathtaking (hot air balloons).
For “A Shallow-Wade” the artist created works based on originally powerful American images that over time have lost their luster. His large-scale “Taylor-Burton,” a bas-relief of the pear-shaped diamond purchased by actor Richard Burton for his then wife Elizabeth Taylor in 1969, hurtles through space against the white walls of the gallery. In spite of the extravagant and romantic gesture the Burton-Taylor marital union crashed to earth not once, but twice. The diamond, originally a symbol of enduring love, was sold in 1978 following the couple’s divorce, and ultimately rendered devoid of all but its monetary significance.
Using a similar conflict of positive and negative connotations, Van der Ende constructed “NASCAR Charger.” Although the Dodge Daytona Charger was specifically built for NASCAR racing, it was eventually outlawed due to its domination on the track. Glowing white and floating horizontally across the wall, Van der Ende’s flattened and immobilized vehicle is a bare-boned version, a car stripped of its former glory.
In an effort to render his process more transparent, Van der Ende mounts small scale photographs of selected images in proximity to the six works on view. Depictions incude blasts, American flags, shotgun shacks and former presidents. But these only hint at the meaning behind the bas-reliefs. Despite offering the illusion of three-dimensional objects, they are almost flat, and because of that, elusive. His selection of subject matter suggests glorified pasts that no longer exist, while the wall-mounted physicality of the objects underscore the lack of reality. The viewer can neither witness these works in the round, nor formulate enduring truths about them.

“Re-Entry (Burning Log)” depicts the glowing remains of a nearly extinguished log. Perhaps the deliberate remnants of a campfire, or the charred ruins of a dwelling, positive and negative interpretations coincide in perfect harmony. Van der Ende understands that objects, and our perceptions of them, are destined to change, and from scraps of salvaged wood he’s fashioned a flock of phoenixes that rise from the ashes of objects that never were.

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