(Lizardi/Harp Gallery, West Hollywood) As a master binder,
Simon Toparovsky was known as an explorer of materials and especially
of new and inventive structures. The bridge to becoming a sculptor
was not long. Deftly and meticulously, Toparovsky has mastered
the craft and materials of cast iron and bronze to create a series
of freestanding and wall pieces based on the myth of Icarus, which
deals with the relationship of father to son, of pride and the
fall, and especially with the importance of daring, breaking the
barrier, "chutzpah," and generating beauty out of suffering.
As a result of a residency at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin, called Arts/Industry, Toparovsky has been able to create this series with assurance and passion. The generosity of this program allows artists to use the materials of a grand factory as a giant studio for visual artists to explore materials and their own expression, with no temporal restraint "except for physical exhaustion."
Toparovsky has been using the myth of Icarus equally as a metaphor for living in Los Angeles, where he moved to from New York several years ago, as for an explicit theme in his recent series. He believes that an indivdual is empowered here, equipped with the courage in one's work. So Icarus, in going too close to the sun and having his wings melted, lands in Los Angeles, where all of the surging, challenging energy of a whole world exists and is ready for him.
According to the myth, Daedalus, Icarus' father, fashions wax wings for his son's escape from the minotaur's captivity and the Cretan labyrinth. Brought up by a brilliant father, Icarus is full of ideas and desire but isolated, trapped on an island his whole life. Upon his first moment of flying free, by intuition, he soars, rushing to experience his joy. But his wings are melted, his flesh is burned by the sun. Crashing into the sea, he is drowned but survives, transformed. He is in pieces, but beautiful.
Working from a live model by making a plaster mold after 22 hours of work, the artist has made Icarus of cast iron in the lost wax method, with molten copper and chemical patinas used to change the tactile and visual impact of the sculpture. Not only is the patina worked up, but Toparovsky incorporates wax and burlap as well as plant material, for instance, into the wings of Icarus. Using his narrative skills, much like a book maker, the sculptor uses a series of panels to explain the myth. A Father's Fear, portrays Daedalus framed in angelic heads, watching his son and giving him the courage to dare. In He Had to Turn Away the son is falling apart, the heads are turned away, and the cayman (alligator) is in the water. Ladders are portrayed, offering a possibility to go up, but they are broken.
In Leaf Icarus the freestanding figure conveys courage and the state of being free. One wing is on fire, a kind of branch, while the other wing is made of wax, feather and plant material. Icarus is now part of a pear tree, and there are Buddhist ceremonial candles on his burning wing. The power of this freestanding figure is at once precarious and at the same time exhudes strength. Dare presents Icarus landing, with his skin peeling off, a new person emerging. The Icarus myth, therefore, incorporates the Phoenix iconography. With 11 panels, 20 small figures and 15 full-sized sculptures, the series is a major project that is eloquent and classical, and serves as a metaphor for the ninties.