Skip to content Skip to navigation

“Plywood, etc.” at the James Barron Gallery in Kent

Oct 26:  James Barron invariably presents imaginative exhibitions and “Plywood, etc.” is no exception. The paintings, furniture and sculpture of ten artists working in plywood as well as other no-frills materials is on view at his gallery in Kent until November 8.  Plywood, fashioned from thin layers of wood glued together each layer rotated up to 90 degrees from the other, is a utilitarian material most often used for crates and construction. However, in the hands of artists and designers it can be transformed into works of art. "Culture Shock" by Moira Dryer For example Moira Dryer and Jules de Balincourt paint on plywood rather than canvas. Many of Dryer’s abstract paintings call to mind exotic fabrics. Executed with casein on plywood,  “Culture Shock” is comprised of bands of parallel wavy lines in shades of mauve, pink and brown that undulate across the surface of the panel like the stitches found in Florentine bargello. The colors are delicate. Some run down to those beneath in faint delicate lines creating the effect of a living substance.  "Off the Beaten Path" by Jules de Balincourt Jules de Balincourt also uses plywood for his paintings but their effect is quite different. In the center of his large untitled painting from 2007 narrow parallel lines of red blue and brown form a diamond in the center of the panel. Mysterious shapes hover in the center of the diamond, while beige ribbons weaving their way around it. The effect is not unlike a bird’s eye view of intersecting highways or perhaps the roads found in some of Wayne Thiebaud’s paintings.  Plywood, of course, is often used for furniture. There is a chair and a table by Frank Lloyd Wright as well as a chair by Marcel Breuer in the exhibition. Most of all, however, plywood is synonymous with the designs of Charles and Ray Eames. The show features one of their chairs, a cabinet, a desk as well as an undulating screen they designed for Herman Miller. A pair of leg splints they made of molded plywood for soldiers carried from the battlefield in World War Two is one of the most interesting pieces in the show.  Splint by Charles and Ray Eames Made before the Eames had perfected the technique for molding plywood, the splint is the length of a man’s leg. In order to release the tension so the wood wouldn’t crack when they bent it into a curve, they left holes of several sizes, which allowed the bandages to be attached. The result is a piece of abstract sculpture. By the end of the war the Eames had made over 150,000 of these splints. My favorite piece in the show is “Chef de la Gare” by Calixte Dakpogan, an artist who lives and works in Benin. Dakpogan creates his sculptures from salvaged automobile parts of which there are many available in a country that has more than its share of car wrecks. The artist has transformed these pieces of metal into anthropomorphic figures and masks. The eyes and mouth of this mask are made from scavenged pieces of metal. The head itself is fashioned by ropes of pearls and beads.   The exhibition will be on view until November 8.