A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
May 14, 2013
A Celebration of Form at the Chazen
Step into the airy Pleasant T. Rowland Galleries at the Chazen Museum of Art, and you see a figure hanging in the air, a human form composed of colorful wood scraps.
If you read the sign on the wall, you learn that artist Michael Lucero began creating life-sized ceramic figures as a graduate student, a time when he also began experimenting with suspending works instead of displaying them on pedestals and building up forms using shards of materials.
In 1978, the sign continues, Lucero moved to New York City, where he had no access to a kiln. Using scraps of fruit crates he scavenged from Chinatown, he built seventeen larger-than-life human figures—which are showcased as a group for only the second time in this exhibition at the Chazen.
Turn from the sign into the gallery, and what you see may take your breath away. A crowd of giants greets you, a garden of enormous figures made up of different colors, textures and shapes.
All of the works are untitled; many are made of wood, wire, wax crayon and acrylic wash. Often, the wood crate scraps are embellished with color and pattern. Some forms resemble stick figures; others have beefier torsos.
One fantastically textured figure features so many colorful wood chips, it almost looks like it’s covered in feathers. Another is made of rows of thin slats that twist and turn like the funnel of a tornado.
It’s a treat to walk among these giants, their bodies taking up so much space and their heads looming far above your own. There’s something elemental, almost primitive, about the forms—a few simple shapes or rough gestures makes them easily identifiable as humans. Yet each seems to have a unique personality, from lonely to formidable to friendly.
Walk into the adjoining gallery and you realize it’s not only size and physicality that give Lucero’s sculptures such presence. In this smaller space, a series of monoprints the artist made earlier this year lines the walls. These works utilize simple shapes and symbols to represent the human figure—and while two dimensional, they capture the essence of Lucero’s hanging works.
This space also features a wall print that Lucero created as this exhibition was being installed in the Chazen.
But words and photos hardly do this exhibition justice. One must visit these sculptures in person to see the magic Lucero creates with upcycled wood, wire and an incredibly nuanced understanding of the human form.
The Michael Lucero Installation remains on display through August 18. Find more information at chazen.wisc.edu.
Photos courtesy of the Chazen Museum of Art.