The Sculpture of Susan Woods

Susan Wood’s sculptures walk a fine line between geometry and expression. In much of her work there is a recurring quality of animation or lifeness–  a trace of lived experience, coiled energy, a little bit uncanny sense of potential movement implied. She balances abstract, constructivist forms and fields of patterning and traces of mechanomorphic, activating multiple references from very ordinary materials. The resulting works are fully contemporary but also call to mind a lineage of arts and crafts and avant-garde traditions, from Josef Hoffman to Marcel Duchamp and Rebecca Horn. Sometimes, as in a wall relief like Synchopation (bed spring1), 2016 the irregular splay of a row of metal rods along the bottom hints at tiny legs in motion, amplifying the accordion-like movement suggested by the buckling grid above. Woods is a bricoleur, collecting and repurposing familiar, found objects, often cast off industrial metal things, machine parts, pieces of box springs, and reshaped and refinished planes of wood. In this she reminds me of Louise Nevelson, who collected cast off materials and had an artistic sensibility somewhere between constructivist and animist. Nevelson said once that she could hear the wood she worked with talking to her; Woods also seems finely attuned to her materials and lets them speak.

Psychedelic Springs is a taller than life size, freestanding assemblage made of zig-zag upholstery coils, disassembled and welded together in tight rows. The result is a sculpture that resembles at first a decorative screen and then, because of its proportions, a totem or a stele, a monument to industrial form and the materials we sit and lay on through much of our lives without seeing. In the studio, with a gentle gesture Woods sets this piece into motion; It leans slowly backward and then forward, always back to its towering equilibrium. The curving lines create shifting op-like linear patterns depending on where you’re standing, adding the the feeling of oscillation and play. It is at once intricate and perfectly simple, dead serious and a send up of our expectations of monumentality.

Tricia Laughlin Bloom
Curator of American Art, Newark Museum

Drawing from an autobiographical moment

My Drawings come out of an autobiographical moment, a diary of sorts, though, I would hope universally represented as to relate to others. I start with a subject and then proceed spontaneously. Imagery appears which I develop. As with the sculptures there is built in a multi-dimensional surface with flat and deep space, using dimensional lines of non-objective space to move the composition within and about the paper and perimeters. The sculpture and drawings are not related to each other, in that the drawings are in no way a preparation to the sculptures or wall pieces. The drawings exist as black and white paintings with pencil on paper.

Susan Woods

The Metal Wall Relief

These wall pieces involve everything I know about sculpture – flat and dimensional space with all of the techniques which promote movement around the composition – primitive and so-called developed practices, pictorial and non-objective. There is the use of symbols I find historically visceral, made from upholstery springs, flattened, cut-up and re-pieced back together. This stems from the 1st Spring Screen hanging sculpture I made from flattened conical springs, commonly known as bed springs. The zig-zag upholstery spring also provides product in combination with each other. This Interest in these two materials from the Industry came to become the wall reliefs I now make.

Susan Woods