For a show called “Surf’s Up” organized by the late great curator, John McWhinnie (The exhibition was the first of its kind in New York, dedicated to surf culture.) Robert Long’s review, referring to my small wax and wire wave sculptures said, “Back in the early 1970s a nascent conceptualist might have produced just one of these works but it would have been huge, nailed to a very long gallery wall. There’s no reason Mr. Solomon couldn’t do that-it would be amazing to see…”
I thought from the beginning of making sculpture, it was probable I would make bigger pieces but I was so interested in how the small ones functioned, as fetish-like works, that it took a while. I did eventually come around to the idea of scale, and it had something to do too, with wrestling the details. The grid was the important feature of the small works along with the translucent quality of the beeswax, both of which had been in my work for a long time. I had some fishing net in the back yard that I had put up so my son could practice his Lacrosse goal shots. One day in adjusting the net I realized I might be able to use it for the grid, if I found something to stabilize and solidify it. The fact that it was soft and pliable was key. I was familiar with fiberglass and resins, being involved in surfboard design with Tom Ninke, a genius surfboard maker whose surfboard company, Ziphius (it’s a kind of whale) was located nearby. With Tom’s initial instruction, I learned to use fiberglass and resin with the netting to make large sculptures.
The use of the netting proved to be a wonderful thing because in stretching it to make the forms I was interested in, the forces needed to stretch it, illustrated the torque seen in the transition of swells when they rise up and break over a reef or sandbar. It was the image of distortion, of squares going to diamonds in the net’s grid, that articulated the energy involved in change of shape. So the netting became my language. It was an equivalent, a kind of drawing in 3 D. With all the net lines connected, when one line moves, all the others move too. By encasing and locking the stretched netting in fiberglass and resin, the shape was solidified like a photograph of stopped motion, and the translucency of the resin imitated the translucency of water.
As I had been a surfer since childhood I knew the infinite shapes that water and waves could take. It was a sculptural reperitiore I had built up without realizing it till then.
The scale I chose to work in was quite large and I have realized since, how ambitious it was of me to make big works, but I did want to encompass the viewer. The whole point of working large was to create an “environment” that the viewer would be in, to make sculpture that is viewed from within, like a wave that is viewed from within the tube. This was also related to Abstract Expressionism. Think of Rothko hanging his large paintings at floor level so the viewer would be “in the work” or Pollock making his paintings on the floor, and being “in” them. Another precident to this work was of course the work of Eva Hesse, one of my all time favorite artists.
The first sculpture was, “Embrace”. It was conceived to be a just the lip of the curl. It hung high on the wall above one’s head.
The next one I made was, “Foament”. It was larger and more of a fragment. It also had white net scrambled up in the lip to represent foam. I felt like it had to seem to be broken off from something, and in this respect it was Rodin’s fragmental contexts, his partial figures that emerge from marble, that was the example.
Of the qualities my work seems to possess, it is a focusing in on things, that has been a consistent feature. Having worked for John Chamberlain by processing his metal, cutting larger pieces and then bending and crushing them, I had familiarity with the vocabulary of forms that had been torqued, warped forms that had been shaped force.
For his assemblage process, Chamberlain used many pieces to conceive his works, but for me, any one of those elements, could prove interesting enough, if a way of exploring it or going inward with it, could be found. Like all exploration of form, measurement is essential and the grid is certainly an archetypal measuring tool. It had always been an element of my work. So using the grid in 3D was organic to me. Though I didn’t make sculpture for years after working for John certainly the experience of working with him embedded influence that can be seen in my sculpture.
GO was the largest work I made, an entire “barrel” that one could stand in. The light inside is the true subject of this work, as the late writer and friend Robert Long, pointed out in his essay on my work, “Like The Shark”.
Then there are about 9 works done in 2008 and (two refinished in 2010). Originally they were conceived as an installation for Salomon Contemporary Warehouse in East Hampton. The installation was titled: One Inch, One Day, One World.
The idea was that the various formations one saw in the installation represented different locales of the larger Ocean. It was an installation about the diversity of forms of a larger encompassing unity. Each work had a different shape, but all consisted of the same essential elements, the one inch black grid net, a 3/8 in. thickness to the material and a gray-green tint which represented a kind of local color the water tends to have in Eastern LI. Some were placed on the floor like flooding tidal bores; some on or emerging from, the wall at eye level; others in the corner and some were placed way above one’s head. Conceivably all could be present simultaneously like different areas of the shore where waves happen. “The Deborah Number” titled after a mathematical formula that measures the movement of solids, like mountains, ( “The mountains flowed before the Lord” Deoborah, Judges 5:5 ) was a freestanding bowl that describes how water forms when something is dropped in it from above. I was very happy about this installation. One large work called “Siphon” was purchased by the esteemed collector Beth DeWoody. “Panta Rhei” was the most complex of the works. That title like most of the others, came from rheological terms. Originally it comes from Heraclitus and means “everything flows.”
I had some wonderful responses to the net and fiberglass work, perhaps the culmination of which was by the artist Alice Aycock, who is another of my favorite artists, and who selected GO, for the Parrish Museum’s Artists Choose Artists Exhibition in 2011. I was very happy with the way the work was presented in the Museum. It hung freely, out from the wall enough so that one could see it from all sides.
In 2009 I made some modest sized works with wire and colored cloth, a kind of combination of sculptures and painting.
Waves and images of waves are greatly satisfying. Perhaps it’s because they apply to so many of our experiences. There is something primordial about them. We could think even of ourselves as waves, as beings formed by energy, the joining of the horizontal and vertical potentials in an “event”. From a spiritual point of view, the oceans and the googolplexian numbers of waves in them are the physical expressions, of endless radiations of love, “.. the billows of the Ocean of Thy mercy…” is one metaphor Baha’u’llah makes of waves.
I love sculpture. For me it goes back into my childhood. Gabriel Kohn is a long forgotten master now, but in the 50s, he was a well regarded artist and represented by Leo Castelli.
Dealer David McKee has been the champion of the few Kohn works that remain. Kohn’s forms are a kind of synthesis of Brancusi and David Smith, but his work was made with wood which he found and laminated together before he made forms with it. Kohn’s was a rather tragic life. He and my father met during in WWII and Gabe came to live with us for several months in the early 60s and worked in a shed on our property. At age 5, I would pick up the pieces of wooden scraps he left from cutting his elliptical shapes and try to copy his works from those negative spaces, crudely hammering together shapes with small nails. So it could be said, sculpture was there from the beginning.