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Virgil de Voldère Gallery is proud to present its second solo exhibition with John Powers. The sculptures and drawings on view demonstrate the artist’s sustained exploration of modular construction, serial repetition, and the monochrome.
Empire, the exhibition’s sculptural centerpiece, is a hanging five-foot globe constructed from cut Styrofoam blocks and laminated with rectangular plates of anodized aluminum. Powers’s blocks are standardized and machine-made, yet the artist introduces an intricate art-making process that instills a gestural quality to the work, belying its initial cool and distant appearance. The proportions of the blocks—1 x 2 x 3—conform to that of his past sculptural work, but here the smoky shine and reflectivity of Empire’s outer skin emphasizes surface without obscuring its underlying foam structure. And though harnessed to the materiality of disco balls and the iconography of science fiction, the work remains a hard-edged abstraction.
Dualisms continue in smaller sculptures built of the same boxy architectural blocks, which seem to grow organically, almost like mushrooms, from the walls. These works—Anarcha and Phineas Gage—transcend the concreteness of their materials through their rich references to portraiture and their contrast of disfigurement and beauty.
Rigorous formal processes have always been key to Powers’s work, but the artist often constructs improvisationally, discovering new forms and shapes as the works are built, even in drawings such as Pruitt-Igoe and Cabrini-Green, the artist’s first grid-based pieces. These multilayered low-relief constructions, arranged with hundreds of pieces of cut paper, are, despite their initial mechanized appearance, testaments to subjective play.
The drawings, like the sculptures and all of Powers’s work, capture the tensions of rigor and play, artisanal gesture and industrial manufacture, and figure and ground.
Greg Allen, “To See This Weekend: John Powers at Virgil de Voldere Gallery,” Greg.org, February 29, 2008.
William Bostwick, “Artist John Powers Builds a Better Death Star,” New York, March 12, 2008.
“John Powers Exhibition NYC,” Wallpaper, March 8, 2008.