DIGITAL STONE CATOLOG ESSAY'S
Today Museum Beijing China
Donald Kuspit "A new special consciousness"
Some of Isherwood's sculptures are exquisitely curved vessels-they have a certain Art Nouveau-like flair--that seem drawn in space, as the linear striations imbricated in their surface suggests. The elaborate striations, repeatedly adumbrating the roundedness of the vessel, convey an excruciating attention to detail, as though they were made by a caring hand and eye, but they have the ingenious intricacy possible only through computer design. The vessel grows like a dervishing plant even as it remains firmly on the ground. Its base is much broader than its neck, which, in my free association, seems to undulate to music. The vessel's "heightened" skin adds to its spatiality. Its quirky stateliness seems innocently absurd, with no loss of self-containment.
Isherwood also makes a rather different looking sculpture, but it is based on the same principle of "over-elaboration." The redundant striations now become proliferating folds, seemingly chaotically layered upon each other. One has the sense of some wildly growing coral, each incremental detail compounding the over-all bizarreness. Is the work "motivated" by chaos theory? Each fold adds a new dimension, but the over-all space has an eerie sameness. The work irresistibly projects into space, yet the eccentric space it forms-so-called eccentric abstraction carried to reduction ad absurdum--seems "inbred" as well as outgoing. As with Smith, the extraordinary complexity and high-level abstraction made possible by computer design has a peculiar "naturalistic" flavor, suggesting that nature generated design and computer generated design can be made to converge in sculpture, which thus has a "fuller spatial completeness" than either has by itself.
Robert C Morgan "Form and Containment"
Jon Isherwood's sculpture emphasizes experimentation and diversity. The desire to use materials as a means for expanding interior space within form has been a primary concern in Isherwood's sculpture for more than twenty-five years. Whether steel or stone, he has shown a dependency on the nexus of volumetric shapes within a post-formalist vocabulary. One might say that the resolution of form is less essential to his manner of work than the point of departure that takes its own direction. What is impressive about the current body of work for this exhibition is the appropriation of Chinese pictorial themes in relation to contemporary stone carving. These, of course, originate in the process of formulating images by way of the computer. Nevertheless, Isherwood's magnitude to consider original themes in relation to contemporaneity is impressive. In looking at Burning Through History, the formal motif of the flames on the speckled granite suggests a hybrid between Chinese and Mesoamerican sculpture, entitled In Deep. A fish out of water has a direct affinity to Brancusi, yet the swirling overlays on the pictorial surface again remit themes inherent to both Chinese decorative painting and sculpture. Singer of Tales is related to the gourd-like themes than the artist has been exploring in his work for more than a decade independent of his relationship to Chinese art. This deserves a comment, given that Isherwood in the only artist of the four, who has used two discrete forms within a single work. I would argue that the decision to juxtapose two forms is less spatial than it is distinctly formal. Rather than the two forms having a necessary tension in relation to the negative space between them, there is instead morphology - namely, a relative likeness - that brings the one into focus relative to the other. Isherwood, as with Snelson, Beasley, and Smith, recalls a sense of completion in his work, that is, the sense of a singular form where the spatial referent, the scale, the weight, and the sensitivity to light and shadow, are within the prevue of the material object. In the case of Isherwood, the sense of the wholeness of form is nowhere but there.