Cryptic languages, hidden doors, secret passageways and escape hatches: expect to find this and more in Stephen Daly's "Drawings and Sculpture" exhibit at Gremillion & Co. It is the modus operandi of this former professor of art (now Professor Emeritus, University of Texas) to challenge and lead the viewers into drawing their own conclusions, leaving just enough clues to guide the way.
Daly uses the letter format, with salutation, rows of communication and signature, in both 3/25/14 Letter and 3/8/12 Letter, but the language was none I had encountered before. It is a linguistic foil, not really saying anything, but offering the possibility of communication. Calligraphic characters, pretend redactions and autonomous images are arranged in a collective way to create an atmosphere that allows the reader to enter the work.
Understanding these two smaller works proves to be an excellent training ground for the larger Intervention. On a macro level, its quilt-like squares and edging create an arena for two larger zones, struggling for space across a great blockade. Everything becomes much more interesting when viewed on a micro scale, with small private and public spaces offering false barriers and ways to escape to the next zone through ladders, hidden doors and travel paths. Follow the trails through the composition to discover symbolic repeats, word images and secret treasures in some of the more quiet zones.
Accessing the Ancient Sky features an earth-bound silhouetted telescope capturing constellations in a large blue mass of deep outer space. The sky consists of beautifully arranged micro symbols of the finest pen strokes; it is interesting that the telescopic field of view can only detect some of this intergalactic matter.
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Man in the Middle serves as an excellent bridge between Daly's two- and three-dimensional worlds. An aluminum head feels trapped by the pressure of too much activity and advancing forks, skyscrapers, eyes and endless loops. The cartography of the drawing underneath has familiar latitudes and longitudes made up of colorful hieroglyphic forms.
Center stage is granted to Mentoring which, at 73" x 36" x 32", was actually the maquette for a 20-foot bronze sculpture installed in Spain; its blue patina designed to disappear into the sky. As the mentor (a small head on a shelf) whispers into the left ear of the protégé, learning occurs and cones, grids and firing synapses emerge from the brain in an explosion of information.
Take the time to walk around Controller, a 49" x 101" x 43" cast and fabricated bronze piece. At the head of the table is the male figure, drawing energy from nearby egg, matrix and Tesla tower. Though master of his own domain, he gazes upon so many other autonomous, independent and random objects not under his control. The artist invites the viewer to insert his/her own metaphor: government and the people, dictator and citizens, traditional father and rebellious children.
Stephen Daly Drawings and Sculpture continues through February 15, at Gremillion & Co. Fine Art, Inc., 2501 Sunset Boulevard, open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 713-522-2701, gremillion.com.