Robert Ressler: Public Space...Private Thoughts, Private Space...Public Thoughts
June 20–August 29, 1999
Beginning June 20, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents Public Space…Private Thoughts, Private Space…Public Thoughts, a collection of large-scale wood sculptures by Brooklyn-based artist Robert Ressler. On view in P.S.1’s first outdoor gallery, Ressler’s works explore the spaces between personal meaning and public presentation, while ranging in form from the abstract to the figurative.
For the past decade the focus of Robert Ressler’s artwork has been public sculpture and the influence of nature. From MANTIS, the eighteen-foot emerald insect sponsored by the Public Art Fund and recently acquired by the City of New York for the Staten Island Children’s Museum, to ALUNA, a gourd-like woodwork cast in bronze, Ressler’s work is organic, celebrating the sensuality and color of nature set in a variety of urban landscapes.
Some public works, such as the 42nd Street installation DAYCARE, a massive silver warrior sitting atop a gaudily painted box of ovum, sperm, and bullets, comments more stridently on the social scene. In each case, the shift from the privacy of the studio and one’s own thoughts to highly trafficked urban sites is exhilarating.
At P.S.1, taken into the confines of the outdoor gallery, Ressler’s work has become more diminutive in scale and less brash in tone. Sculptures such as HYDRA and TWIN seem to respire in a more meditative mood. The wood of these sculptures, some recently felled, some longer exposed to the elements, suggest the intricacies and revelations of aging while the form of SHEELA-NA-GIG encloses its own private space. Named for a Celtic icon, this piece creates a pod-like cloister or perhaps confessional where even in a crowd a viewer might momentarily dwell with his or her own thoughts. Amid these organic forms is sited BINYAMIN, a butcher block yielding to the force and edge of the descending cleaver. Animated somewhat comically on its animal-like legs, this sculpture stands both as a metaphor open to public speculation and a private tribute to Ressler’s father. Carved from a 195-year-old elm, a landmark felled due to disease, the material itself seems to heave with its own mass and history.
Working from studios in New York and southern Vermont, Ressler gained prominence throughout the 1990s for public works exhibited throughout New York City at sites including Times Square, Columbus Circle, the Jewish Museum, and Wave Hill in Riverdale. Recently he completed a Percent for Art commission entitled RIVERS, a three-panel tribute to the poetry of Langston Hughes for P.S. 233; and MITOSIS, an outdoor performance space of granite cobblestone for Socrates Sculpture Park. In 1997 Ressler cast his first large-scale work in bronze at the Johnson Atelier Institute of Sculpture from an original entitled ALUNA that had been carved from sycamore. In an edition of two, these works are currently on display at the newly formed Pratt Sculpture Park in Brooklyn, and Grounds for Sculpture as part of the museum's permanent collection.
P.S.1 would like to thank Leonard Dobbs for his support of this project.