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Richard Deacon
San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California
Recommendation by Cathy Breslaw

Richard Deacon, "Dancing in Front of My Eyes," 2006, wood and aluminum. Photo: Jeff McClane

Continuing through July 25, 2017

Richard Deacon gives us clues as to the nature of his work right in this exhibition’s title, “What You See Is What You Get.” His sculptures reveal the history of how they are created, and use screws, magnets, fasteners and other finishing materials as both functional and aesthetic details that add a distinctive quality to his work. Nothing is hidden in his sculpture — there are no underlying structures or armatures used in his organically created forms. Outside and the inside are one and the same. Constructing works from many materials, including wood, metal, galvanized steel, ceramic, paper, vinyl, leather and rubber, the artist experiments with how materials are fabricated. For example, wood sculptures are often created using a steaming technique that leaves a residue of the belts or material used to hold the parts together. The residue adds visual complexity and character to the surfaces and a feeling of authenticity to the works, revealing to the viewer the ‘hand’ of the artist. The steaming process shapes the wood into twists and curves that come as a surprise.

There are other formal compositional qualities that Deacon brings to many additional works, especially with the ceramic and paper works. These possess a playfulness and levity not present in the steel sculptures. Works range in scale from a large-sized public art commission originally created for MOCA, “Distance No Object” (1988), measuring at 103 by 147 by 240 inches; to a small paper, epoxy resin and thread sculpture “…And…” (1994), just 2 3/4 by 15 3/4 by 5 3/4 inches. “Dancing In Front of My Eyes” (2006) and “Dead Leg” (2007), both wood sculptures, share a movement and rhythm reminiscent of expressionistic abstract painting. Also included are aquatint etchings, block prints and screen prints on paper and vinyl. Closely relating to the forms of his sculptures, these works are not preliminary studies but beautifully crafted artworks. Deacon sometimes calls himself a fabricator, but explains that fabrication has a double meaning. One is a piece of built material, the other to make things up. Deacon does both convincingly.

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