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Rezac wood sculpture
Rezac wood sculpture

Richard Rezac, Untitled (98–03),1998, cherry wood, 18½ × 27 × 30 inches.

Organizing principles are what dog us, and not just in art. If we are at all concerned with other people’s understanding of our work, we are confounded. Must we sacrifice some part of our vision to buy into a received language that we all share? Or is it possible that there are visual systems that lie deeper within us, deeper than culture, that can serve artists as organizing frameworks?

Richard Rezac often mentions Baroque architecture in conversation. Baroque architects interest him in their use of variation to spin out a structure from a single geometric motif. A certain curve, for example, might appear in both plan and elevation, and then again as both a detail of a balustrade and an arc on the site plan. What first seems playful in, say, Borromini, grows deep and rich in its endless self-reference. Echoes, mutations, and mirroring speak to the fractal quality of all natural systems. The suggestion of the infinite is built into this architecture, not depicted through symbolism.

Rezac’s starting point is the body or a part of the world that interacts with the body, like a chair, or a window, or other architectural element. He rifts on these, conflating plan and elevation and forcing our eye to choose between the flat and the three-dimensional. These are domestic pieces, scaled to the rooms we actually live in. The homeyness of these objects allows them the possibility of an installation that is both extravagant and believable. Rezac’s pieces hang in the air, lie on the floor, or cantilever off the wall. The sculptural issue of the base becomes, for him, more a question of the essential place. He plays visual games with apparent frameworks that are subsumed into the image as we examine them. Does that structure resembling an inverted shelf dictate the hanging configuration of those nine balls—or does the necessary arrangement of the balls demand the form of the framework?

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