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Winter Show at the James Barron Gallery

Sun Jan 10th, 2016

“Winter Solstice/Little Sun,” at the James Barron Gallery in Kent, features works by more than twenty artists including Jules Olitski, Kenneth Noland and Sol LeWitt. Winter, light and recycled materials comprise the theme of the exhibition. 

An intriguing table sculpture by Margherita Marchioni, “Homage to Roberto Capucci, is made of translucent blue and green plastic bottles that the artist has cut in half lengthwise before transforming them into something that resembles one of Capucci’s extraordinary sculpted skirts or perhaps an exotic sea creature. Marchioni, who also makes stunning jewelry, says if you can “keep hands busy you can’t get into trouble.”

I also liked Dawn Clements’ large watercolor of a pot of purple and lavender hyacinths. It is unframed so that it seems to float upon the wall. Clements often paints on large panels she creates by cutting and pasting sheets of paper together, adding more sheets as necessary to achieve the scale she wants. In the process the paper becomes distressed with folds, wrinkles and seams which add to the interest. Obviously Clements likes working in a large format. “Wow, there really is a reason to work on paper, because I can get as big as I want,” she has said.

The stars of the exhibition are seven pieces by the sculptor, Beverly Pepper. Pepper started working in wood in the early sixties before she turned to metal learning how to weld by working for six months at the John Deere Factory in Moline Illinois.

"No woman in history has done what Beverly has done, which is to make the monumental outdoor pieces fabricated with factory techniques," says the art critic Barbara Rose. "No woman has gone into a factory and worked right alongside the workers."  Pepper remembers,” I was terrified. But one thing I learnt growing up in Brooklyn is that if you’re offered an opportunity, take it. You don’t have to be qualified. You just have to have the chutzpah to face all the possible downfalls.”

Pepper fashions her works – many of them of monumental proportions - from steel, iron or stone. An artist, she believes, cannot be dominated by their material. In fact, she says, "I use metal like paper." 

The seven pieces fashioned from wood (mahogany or teak) cast iron or steel that have been magnificently installed at James Baron date from the 1980’s. The three largest pieces are arranged in a triangle in front of the center wall of the upstairs gallery. Imposing yet at the same time delicate and graceful they tower over the viewer. In some strange way they seem almost human.

The five smaller pieces stand on pedestals two on one pedestal and three on the other which allows one to see them in greater detail. James Barron says Pepper “created them
as if they were drawings, the hand following the mind. She said that the process was very important, and if she knew in advance what they would look like, there would be no reason to continue to complete the work.”

Anyone who has ever met Pepper either here in this country or in Todi, where she has lived and worked for over 40 years, will certainly not have forgotten her. It is hardly surprising this remarkable woman is still going strong at 94. 

The exhibition also honors Olafur Eliasson’s project, Little Sun. His bright yellow sunflower-shaped solar lamps provide light to people throughout the world, particularly in off-grid areas. Five hours of charging the little lamp in the sun produces up to ten hours of light. Over 170,000 Little Sun lamps have been sold, thereby reducing 14,630 tons of Co2 emissions and saving $5,000,000 on energy expenses.