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January 17 - March 13, 2004, at Griffin Contemporary, Santa Monica

by Kathy Zimmerer

An intriguing sculptural mix underlies the works of Greg Colson, Joel Morrison and James Turrell. Sharing the gallery’s main space are Colson’s schematic aggregate paintings and objects, and Morrison’s organic sculptures that simultaneously mutate and dissolve in reflected light. Turrell’s maquettes for installations are prototype designs intended to ultimately contain his light installations, but here stand as sculptural objects in their own right.

Colson’s structures are an angular and abstract mix of street signs and wood sticks both painted and bare. Sometimes these objects resemble an artfully arranged game of pick-up sticks, while others suggest an architectural structure highlighted by found objects. His paintings are black and white with a touch of color and texture that resemble diagrams gone amok. Signs and symbols are wed dizzily in an oblique play on the visual barrage so inherent in contemporary culture. In one panel, hands shake in a stenciled merger, arrows point up, and the eyes focus on the “pay cashier” sign that anchors the entire maze. His works are witty, slyly pointing out the potency of visual icons.

Greg Colson, “Hartford,” 2003,
painted wood/metal/plastic/carbon/
paper and objects, 39 x 45 x 3/4”.

Greg Colson, “Six Intersections (Schools),”
2003, oil/enamel/acrylic/pencil on wood
and metal with objects, 32 x 32 x 21”.

Joel Morrison, “Untitled,” 2003,
cast aluminum, 113 x 40 x 36”.
Photo: Roger Marshutz. Courtesy of
the Santa Monica Museum of Art.
If Colson is diagrammatic, Morrison is the opposite. His sculptures grow out of a flowing biomorphic sensibility. Using various metals ranging from cast stainless steel to aluminum and fiberglass, Morrison’s forms are not the sleek images of Constantin Brancusi or Barbara Hepworth, rather they are a more ungainly intrusion into space that resembles a luminous sea creature changing and evolving to adapt to the environment. In all of his works light plays an essential part in molding the image and creating the surface. While the cast stainless steel makes for a sea of reflections and shapes, the pastel colored surfaces on other pieces break down the shape and continue the evolution of the form. Evocative of a human torso, the shapes pay homage to biomorphism with a refreshing organic twist and turn that keeps the spectator guessing as to the next guise they will assume.

One of the pioneers of the light and space aesthetic, Turrell’s magical environments here are an extension of his epic work on the massive Roden Carter in Arizona. Here he creates unique architectural prototypes to house his light and space installations. These maquettes are striking for their fanciful yet reductive architectural forms, to be expected from a master of spatial illusion and manipulation. In Basilica for Santorini, Turrell pares down the image to its most essential geometric elements, but even in the model it retains a sense of architectural scale that houses some mystery in its interior. Other models are formed from familiar shapes gone awry, as with ILTR’s Room, whose truncat-ed cone echoes the Roden Crater. Odd chambers appear in the model, which also is a reflection of the tunnels and openings Turrell has created in his crater.

Although these are all solo exhibitions, all the artists touch on the vagaries and mysteries of sculptural form. Colson’s work represents contemporary visual culture and its bewildering array of signs and symbols, Morrison’s sculptures reflect an increasingly distant nature at its most exuberant, and Turrell’s prototypes are, as always, a spiritual puzzle of light and form.

James Turrell, “Transformative Space:
Basilica for Santorini,” 1991, Cast
Hydrocal Plaster, 18" x 52" x 34".

James Turrell, “ILTR's Room,” 1991,
Cast Hydrocal Plaster.