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New Directions

Art Review


Published May 31, 2006 at 4:00 a.m.

EXHIBIT:"A Fork in the Road," mixed-media sculptural works and installation by James Florschutz & Meg Walker. Firehouse Gallery, Burlington. Through June 24.

ARTWORK:"Four Panels from the Footprint Series" by James Florschutz

The exhibit "A Fork in the Road," currently at Burlington's Firehouse Gallery, presents two equally interesting approaches to large-scale constructions: organic and architectonic. Charlotte sculptor Meg Walker created an installation that presents a shrine-like aggregation of incongruous forms, while Newfane artist James Florschutz has built a wholly abstract structure in the back gallery. Standing and wall-mounted works are also featured.

Florschutz's mixed-media drawings are the only two-dimensional pieces in the show. A pair of vertical, 18-by-48-inch drawings is part of his 1999 "Fragmen-tation Series/Excavation." Grids, squares and rectangles seem to tumble downward in the drawings; one of them is dominated by grays, the other by black. If the title refers to archaeological excavations, the grids are perhaps pits seen from above? But there's no need to seek a literal interpretation; Florschutz's drawings are engaging enough without imposing meaning.

As good as these drawings are, sculpture is the main event at "A Fork in the Road." Florschutz's 2006 "Next Generation" comprises a wall filled with unfinished surveyor's stakes, each about 1 inch square and several feet long. There are perhaps 200 such stakes in the sprawling composition, and there's a hidden order about it. The stakes aren't randomly spaced, but rather assembled into an asymmetrical matrix of floating diagonals, verticals and horizontals.

Florschutz's masterpiece, however, is "Where Secrets Lie." Roughly 10 feet high, the structure is assembled from several hundred stakes and seems more like architecture than sculpture. It looms over the center of the gallery, like an unfinished monument made simply of sticks.

Walker's works also reference architecture, but her tiny barns and other outbuildings, just a few inches tall, are precariously perched on spindly, 6-foot stands. Her 1999 "Toppling Barns" and "Stacked Barns" have pointed, English-barn-type roofs.

"Toppling Barns" is a three-tiered crescent of little barns on a tall, white base. The barns are painted black, white and brown to create an elegant, minimalist composition. "Stacked Barns" is more complex. It's really two vertical wood-and-cardboard constructions, a few feet apart and linked by a curved red line. The column at left is a tall, thin barn, while at right, several structures are piled together -- it's like barn raisings gone awry and swept into a jumbled heap. Walker's barn forms respond to the rural architecture of New England in a playful yet unsentimental way.

Avian influences appear in Walker's works, too. Her 1983 wall-mounted "Bird Under a Shower" is perhaps the most delicate piece in the show. About a dozen wires, each the diameter of a coat hanger, are bent into graceful arcs to dangle over a crumpled, nest-like ball of finer-gauge wire.

Dated 2006, Walker's "Self Talk: Roads Taken, or Not -- Yet" is the central installation of her show. It's a compendium of dozens of forms -- heads, birds, spiky shapes A la Dr. Seuss -- all ensconced on high, black columns. The columns are a variety of heights, like disordered pipe-organ tubes; each of the figures and forms on them seem symbolic of a "road not taken."

If there is a fork in either of these artist's paths, as the show's title suggests, will it bring them closer together or further apart? Either way, their respective approaches to construction are highly complementary at this point of the journey.