Discovering the twisted art of Johnny Swing

Provided photo “Johnny Swing – Under the Influence of Motion” is on exhibit at the Bundy Modern in Waitsfield.

murmuration,” a sumptuously curved landscape of a couch, sits under the constellation of lights of “Big Jardalear.” A twisted steel sculpture, “seven nots,” sits in front, on an expansive floor mat, a quilted mosaic of dollar bills. The sofa, beckoning and incredibly comfortable, is made of coins — thousands of nickels fused together. “Johnny Swing — Under the Influence of Motion,” an exhibition of the Vermont artist’s sculpture, furniture, and lighting, opened last week at Bundy Modern in Waitsfield. The show includes selections from Swing’s coin furniture series, several of his dramatic oversized lamps, and his newest series, “The Wedding Present.” In the 14 “Wedding Present” sculptures, stainless steel rods and bread toasters are knotted together in energetic abstract shapes. Bundy Modern provides a stunning setting for Swing’s work. The gallery, a Bauhaus-style cube of a structure, was designed and built by architect Harlow Carpenter in the 1960s as a venue for modern art. With its straight lines, clean angles, and glass walls, the Bundy’s geometry complements Swing’s lines with their curves, twists, and knots. “I hope there’s a lot of humor and grace in my work,” said Swing, noting, “I’ve worked with twisted steel for 25 years. I love the implied energy in it.” In Swing’s artist’s statement, he explains his expectations for his work, expectations that he notes come with the social responsibility of making art. “First, it needs to be entertaining; second, it needs to spark curiosity, so that it creates a dialogue with the viewer; and third, it should have a formal quality, so that when the work is or approximates furniture, it must be comfortable,” Swing said. Swing’s love of curves carries through all the collections at the Bundy — the twists of “The Wedding Gift,” the sensuous landscape of the sofas and chairs, each one with its myriad circles, the curves of his lamps arching overhead like segments of the celestial sphere. There are curves even in his dollar bill pieces — a floor mat of dollar bills is overlaid with quilted swirls. Swing’s longstanding fascination with twisting steel is at the heart of “The Wedding Present.” In his process, he uses mechanical devices to twist long stainless steel rods. As they wrap tighter, the strands form bends and knots, responding to the twisting. A video at the Bundy shows a work in progress, an excavator providing muscle for the twisting. “I have always wanted to twist up a car or washing machine,” Swing said about the genesis of “The Wedding Present” series. “A buddy said, ‘Why not try something smaller? Why don’t you try a toaster?’” The toasters, new and shiny, some still in their boxes, burst and contort when twisted by the rods. There’s a whimsy in their fragments and exposure. There is a wonderful contrast between the curved and knotted lines of the rods and the irregular explosive shapes of the toasters. “I want them to look a little like found objects,” Swing said. “Clearly they were made, but their unexpected shapes imply curiosity. Like a 13-year-old boy twisting a string into a knot, they have a little bit of that energy. “The shapes made in this process are unimagined until they appear. The creation process is magical,” Swing said. With “Hamilton Beach 2-Slice Easy Clean in Box,” “Oster Tostadoro 4-Slicer,” and “Cuisinart RBT-260,” viewers may also be surprised, as Swing was, by the variety of today’s toasters. Swing’s coin furniture shows another side of his talent in re-imagining familiar objects. In these sculptural furniture pieces, thousands of individual coins are fused together to create smooth, gently curved, seductive couches and chairs. These furniture sculptures, Swing explains in his artist’s statement, “focus on the physical. During the interaction between the viewer and the work of art, a sharing occurs. The senses are alerted, and a primal experience is generated by being on/in the work. A feeling of bliss, a surprise, a sense of oneness and belonging exists. After the initial shock of the experience comes the inevitable investigation on the part of the viewer, and what was once limited to the eyes is now open to the flesh.” He continued, “I have made objects of refulgence, with money — the material that makes the world go round. These flat, hard, shiny coins in a circular format, which have been touched, hoarded, traveled, and traded for goods and services, are now released from their original burden. Assembled together to form the furniture, they become part of the play in swirls, lines and patterns.” BUNDY MODERN Bundy Modern presents “Johnny Swing — Under the Influence of Motion: Sculpture, Furniture, Lighting” at 361 Bundy Road, Waitsfield, to Sept. 10. Hours are: noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; for information, go online to www.bundymodern.com and www.johnnyswing.com.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.