Present Imperfect - Way of the Sculptor
Georgia Scherman Projects presents Present Imperfect – The Way of the Sculptor, Ross Bell’s third solo show with the gallery. Bell continues to explore established ideas about three-dimensional form that stem from the traditions of Formalist, Minimalist and Post-Minimalist art. His imposing sculptural forms create his own idiosyncratic bridge to straddle issues of Modernity and Postmodernity. Structurally and materially, Bell explores notions of fragmentation, deconstruction and narrative. The combination of fine craftsmanship and raw, untreated surfaces - long a Bell hallmark - offers yet another notional juxtaposition.
Present Imperfect – The Way of the Sculptor is based on three seemingly incongruous concerns: Rodchenko’s spatial constructions, Kung Fu and The Apocalypse. The large-scale wooden forms navigate the boundary between abstraction and representation, creating a tension for the viewer who must determine their own role in this potentially violent environment. In these new works, Bell’s continued use of wood as a primary sculptural material speaks to mutability and impermanence. Wood, unlike stone and steel, is inherently vulnerable to environmental destruction and invasive insects - it falls victim to the passage of time.
A central freestanding sculpture made out of walnut is based on the Muk Yan Jong, a wooden man dummy used in martial arts training as an opponent (as seen, for example, in Bruce Lee films). The Muk Yan Jong is enlarged in scale to fit the artist’s own size and height. The sculpture appears to be bruised, revealing a unique propensity of walnut wood to physically manifest areas of physical trauma. In this case, the darker core colour has risen to the surface of the trunk as a result of having fallen from a truck during transportation.
Activating the space around the Muk Yan Jong are two artillery archetype Anti-Tank Barricade sculptures. One is made of ash and the other of reclaimed barn rock elm timbers from Southwestern Ontario dating back to the 17th century. The sense of vulnerability implied through Bell’s material choices is amplified by the impending extinction of the specific woods – by the susceptibility of ash to the Emerald Ash Borer and of elm to Dutch Elm Disease. The Anti-Tank Barricades and Muk Yan Jong imply a palpable, but deficient sense of self-protection or physical stability. It is as though the aged, fragile and rare species of woods have adopted these defensive forms in an effort to protect themselves from the inevitability of their disappearance.
Born in Alberta, Ross Bell studied Art and Design at Red Deer College and received his BFA from University of Lethbridge. After decades of life in the prairies of Canada, he moved to Toronto and completed his MFA in 2000 at University of Guelph. Among the first artists to join GSP in Toronto, Bell has continued to participate in group and solo exhibitions at the gallery; solo exhibitions at the Macdonald Stewart Arts Centre, Guelph and Propeller Centre for the Arts, Toronto; and group exhibitions at Chela Gallery in Baltimore, MD, USA and the International Sculpture Center, Hamilton, NJ, USA. Most recently, in 2011, Bell’s hypercube sculpture was selected by a curatorial committee to be a feature at the Toronto International Art Fair. This same work was subsequently acquired by and installed at Pacart headquarters.