(1) "Double Dare", detail, metal spoke wheels/ribbon, 12 x 50 x 1 1/2", 1994
(2) "Wash 'N Ware", metal/plastic, dimensions variable, 1995.
(3) "Recess", metal/ribbon, 41 x 7 x 9", 1994.
(4) "Argyle", metal/elastic, 16 x 22 x 8", 1995.
by Isabel Anderson
Newspace Gallery, Hollywood) Timothy Nolan's first solo exhibition is of sculpture that is both elegant and inviting. The works here are fabricated from a set of 1950's encyclopedias as well as polished chrome wire forms recovered from thrift stores. These are woven and wrapped with white and off-white elastic, tape and non-colorful webbing of the kind used to make seats for lawn and beach chairs. The spare and unified forms Nolan favors both belie and reveal their humble premanufactured origins. They are evocative of the fifties, a time when knowledge was homogenized, gender roles were fixed and domesticity was the province of the colonized female. These poignant yet still humorous references are intentional, but not as social critique. Instead they are intended to be a quarry or mine for aesthetic investigation.
At the present time Nolan's sculpture has little of the heterogeneous character it used to have when he combined materials as diverse as wrought iron, fiberglass insulation and cheesecloth into objects which had a domestic reference, but were primarily concerned with images of the body. Now the body reference is muted in favor of spare form and gently ironic humor. The domestic references are contained and refined. The lack of color and the repetitive structures woven within the forms relate the work to minimalism without having any of the overbearing posturing often associated with the early version of sixties minimalism.
Nolan thinks of weaving in terms of ritual and meditative state of mind. The relationship of weaving to traditional women's work brings up notions of a now discredited Feminist Essentialism, the idea that since women really are the premier nurturers and nest-builders their art should appropriate this function. When a man does it, these stereotypes are challenged and deflated. A more thoroughly developed present day feminism includes work by male artists who investigate power relationships, gender roles or work with soft materi- als--as Nolan does.
The largest work here, Common Knowledge, is made from a twenty-five volume set of the 1956 edition of the Universal Standard Encyclopedia. The volumes are wrapped in soft, off-white tape which has been woven around them, and they are hung in a row as if shelved. Along with the creation of formal aesthetic values, the artist's intent is to accomplish two opposing objectives simultaneously: to preserve and to bind. Here preservation means binding each volume shut so that it can never be read. The knowledge that there is a text within these soft, mute box shapes is a feature which both indicates and denies the object's original function, while it goes beyond merely formalist concerns.
Two of Nolan's favorite artists are Robert Ryman and Agnes Martin. Ryman paints nearly absent of color, while Martin works with repetitive marks on bare canvas. Working similiarly within a rigorous formal aesthetic framework, Nolan achieves an intensely personal statement. Then too, there is something about his work which evokes the non-heroic, positive aspects of our American Puritan heritage--the valuing of the work ethic, of simplicity and directness, and the discovery of beauty in objects which make so much from so little.