Reid Brechner brings his ceramic art for a brief exhibit called “Sorry, But Hello” at the Castleton University Bank Gallery. Brechner, a painter and sculptor, studied art and mathematics, and he has sought to combine both disciplines in the work on display in Rutland now.
“The problem that this presented …” he writes, “was the inescapable contradiction of trying visually to represent something which is purely conceptual. My art has developed over time to embrace this contradiction and draw on this duality to create tension in my work.”
Which doesn’t tell you very much about what you’ll see when you visit. But after you’ve absorbed Brechner’s sensibility by looking at the sculptures, his words will give you something to think about.
The Bank Gallery is a blast of contradiction with this exhibit. It’s located in the former marble bank and filled with early 19th-century craftsmanship: carved green marble, red slate, and statements about prosperity parading around the walls just under the high ceiling, ornate, elaborate and imposing. In this setting, Brechner hangs his quiet ceramic works, each made in clay and shaped like a small box: some rectangular, some square. They are marked with sculpting tools, patterned by fabric imprints, painted and glazed with intention. The tactile origin of the sculptures makes their cool, angular surfaces more sensual; we know that a human had his hands in clay and made these small objects with purpose.
The sculptures share a palette of quiet colors and their arrangement on the various walls and horizontal surfaces is spare — exceptionally spacious. However, despite the copious white space in the installations, Brechner’s individual objects seem, in every case, to reach for each other.
He writes that each object is made individually without a plan for how they might perform together. On his website reidbrechner.com, you can view these same sculptures arranged in entirely different ways. So, looking at the Bank Gallery groupings, I realize that, though the small works are individuals, they are flexible enough to form a dynamic community: a single composition. The individuals point to each other; they collaborate. Brechner composes a still group that is utterly abstract, but energetic. He likens this composing to a performance — the creative process goes on even in the hanging of the show, and the new compositions are site specific. It’s a performance for sure: a magic show.
Looking at Brechner’s work is not like looking at clouds and recognizing a familiar figure. These pieces are abstract. Period.
The effect of “Sorry, But Hello” is hushed, minimal, clean. The result is absorbing.