Towering, whimsical sculptures crafted by Rhode Island sculptor Joshua Enck will kick off the year at the University of Maine Museum of Art in Bangor, thus solidifying the museum’s commitment to contemporary sculpture and its mission to think modern and go big.
“I’m pretty certain visitors haven’t seen an exhibition quite like this,” said UMMA director George Kinghorn. “It’s really exciting to bring large-scale sculpture, not pedestal work, to the museum.”
“The Gesture Contained: Recent Sculptures by Joshua Enck” will be on display from Jan. 14 to March 26.
His thought-provoking artwork of calculated simplicity creates an environment of looming, angular metal shapes and intricate ovals of weaving wood, just as trees and boulders create a forest.
“I really like making things that, if you view them quickly, they might seem a bit more simple than they really are, and closer, you see the subtleties,” said Enck, 33. “I try to make forms that are different from every angle and I think all the work in the show reflects that.”
The exhibit will be Enck’s first solo museum show, and he’s excited to have the room to spread his sculptures out, allowing viewers to approach the sculptures from afar and view them from all angles, much as one experiences architectural and natural forms.
“His background is architecture and furniture design,” said Kinghorn. “He has made functional furniture pieces for bread and butter, but the bulk of his creative energies go towards creating sculptural forms.”
Enck has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Illinois and master’s in furniture design from the Rhode Island School of Design, where he now teaches spatial dynamics and 3-D design.
“I really like making sculptures if I’m just making [artwork] for myself,” Enck said. “But I approach both furniture and sculpture similarly, with attention to detail, craftsmanship and material.”
What initially attracted Kinghorn to Enck’s artwork was “Tinker,” a painted wood sculpture covered in silvery aluminum leaf that closely resembles a swan, a bent oil can or a melting Hershey’s Kiss – depending on the viewer. The sculpture will be a part of his UMMA exhibit.
Vernacular architecture such as grain elevators influences his designs. All of his pieces start with a sketch and evolve as he brings the design to life in his workshop.
For the UMMA exhibit, Enck created four new sculptures in one year. One of the sculptures, titled “Counterpoise,” is the largest he has constructed thus far. Sitting on the floor, the geometric figure stands 8 feet tall.
“The tallest piece was actually really exciting in that it was almost completely developed just in the shop through the process of making,” Enck said. “I would almost call it sketching in three-dimension. It just kind of grew and evolved in the process of making which was really exciting and sort of nerve-wracking at the same time.”
In addition to Enck’s exhibition, expressive realist oil paintings by Jonathan Lux, 34, of New York City will be on display in an exhibit titled “Fear and Play.”
His narrative scenes straddle the border between perilous action and dramatized play.
“They are up for interpretation. The enigmatic narratives blur boundaries between games, theater and danger,” said Kinghorn.
The paintings, often full of puzzling details, cause the viewer to question the scenario and formulate stories. Most often, the subjects are children, and the situation is familiar yet foreign, perhaps dreamlike.
Lux uses self-made models of mid-20th century architecture to paint buildings such drive-through dairy stores into his landscapes. He refers to his collection of models as “a portable catalogue of surroundings” he remembers from his childhood.
His interest in film is evident from his active, cinematic scenes and dramatic lighting. A number of his pieces are made up of a series of images resembling comic strips or movie reel snippets.
“My interest in cinema is just your typical 20th century kid watching movies,” said Lux, who worked in a movie rental store as one of his first jobs. “I don’t want things to be boring. I tend to be afraid of producing work that is passive for people. The ambiguity of the narrative is to make the audience, work, do something, participate.”
In addition to promoting visiting artists, the museum is striving to bring their permanent collection of 35,000 works to life through thematic exhibitions. “New York: New York,” also running Jan. 14-March 26, is a series of New York photographs taken by various artists, including two Maine photographers, Ilya Askinazi and Todd Watts. The exhibit also includes three newly acquired photos by Andy Warhol.
For information about the three new exhibitions, visit www.umma.umaine.edu or call 561-3350. For information about Joshua Enck, visit www.joshuaenck.com, and for information about Jonathan Lux, visit www.jonathanlux.com.
University of Maine Museum of Art in 2011
“Photo National 2011,” a juried show of U.S. photography, is the centerpiece of UMMA’s 2011 season.
“We’ve never done anything like this before,” said Kinghorn. “It will be the best of contemporary photography around the country.”
It will be on display for the summer, June 25-Sept. 17.
The UMMA has gained visibility in Maine and New England in the past few years by creating a new logo and a new mission in 2008, putting an emphasis on art education and understanding and exhibiting modern and contemporary art.
From 2007 to 2010, attendance to the UMMA rose 227 percent, from 3,931 visitors per year to 12,864. Kinghorn attributes much of the increase in attendance to the ongoing sponsorship of Machias Savings Bank, which funds free public admission to the museum.
Also in 2011, the UMMA will celebrate drawing in cooperation with other Maine galleries and museums. The UMMA will have two drawing exhibitions. Nancy Murphy Spicer, exhibiting April-June, draws with nontraditional materials and will create an evolving drawing using rope on the museum walls. Brian Shure, also exhibiting April-June, will display ink drawings of landscapes from his travels from around the world.
Large-scale photography by Dominic Shavez and paintings and drawings by Carlo Pittore are scheduled to end the 2011 season October-December.
The museum will continue providing art education programs and workshops such as the “Art at Noon” luncheons, during which people have the opportunity to ask questions about and discuss the exhibits.