Sunday, February 24, 2013

John Allen: Little Known Minimalist Along the Hudson

I came across the above sculpture at The Marina Gallery in Cold Spring, NY... I immediately fell in love with it.  I have a thing for minimal sculpture, especially the kind made with found objects or natural elements.  The little brad nails outlining the contour of the reddish brown ovals staggered up and down this white washed serpentine stick stirred me and put my mind into a quiet contemplative state.  Work with this degree of abstraction, simplicity, texture, and intimacy of size awakens my senses.  When I lived in Berkeley, CA on top of the hills I would take midnight strolls in the moonlight through patches of fog along the ridge trail overlooking Wildcat Canyon.  The smell of the eucalyptus and knob cone pines; the sounds of an orgy of frogs from the valley below and occasional screech of a bird from one of the scores of massive rolling hills trailing off into the darkness; the texture of dirt, rock, pine needles, and dry grasses crunching under my every step... moments like that I will never forget.  I felt a sense of ecstasy, of being alive on those quiet, slow, strolls on the outskirts of Tilden Regional Park.  Sculpture like this, give me a piece of that deep feeling of calm and connectedness I sometimes experience in times of solitude and meditation.

The maker of this lovely work of art is John Allen of Garrison, NY (I believe) and member artist of The Marina Gallery.  I was unfamiliar with his art so I did some research on-line and found a few more images of his sculptures.  In his own words... "John Allen is a little known, essentially not-for-profit artist who lives nearby and makes a living doing something else"

Below is what John had to say regarding the moving sculpture in this video as published in the New York Times...
The sculpture “pending” originated in my desire to make a piece that has the sense of how I feel about the environmental destruction that we humans have so blithely initiated. (I was drawn to call it tocsin, for a couple of reasons, but it is unsuitable, for a couple of reasons, not least because tocsin has an imperative ring to it.)
My secret hope was somehow to transcend the obvious ominous and find another way to emotionally process the information. As it turns out, that has not happened. I sat in the gallery yesterday afternoon and found that the intermittent mild hammer tap was easy to ignore, I think in the same way that we ignore repeated upsetting new information documenting climate change. It gets absorbed into and becomes part of the shifting dark background status quo (which we can bear), rather than transformed into action.
Regarding changing people’s minds there is a book “Moral Ground,” that considers this problem. I think it is like other matters that do not yield to simply intellectual processes, i.e., “How do you encourage compassion, teach gratitude, embrace self acceptance, etc.?”
The answer being you keep working at it, tap, tap, tap, while keeping your heart open….
The timing of the hammer drop is adjustable, from a virtually silent 1 – 2 minutes to a noisy 5 seconds. The geared speed-reduction component rules this, plus the longer interval keeps the surprise annoyance factor fresh, rather than a constant unseemly grinding sound.

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