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

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