MCNABB MARTIN CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERY | WALTER HORAK
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WALTER HORAK

ARTIST STATEMENT

The figurative tradition in sculpture is several millennia old, and any artist producing images of the human form invariably invites comparison to predecessors. The relatively idealized proportions of my figures and the balance in their spatial composition follow Western design principles going back at least to the ancient Greeks. At the same time, the surface quality of my bronzes – traces of the modeling process favored over a more precise rendition of anatomy – reflects a more recent, but still Western, aesthetic evident in Rodin and Degas sculpture. Elements of gesture and movement are also obvious, and they reference, especially in my early sculptural efforts, Daumier’s drawings from the 19th century and Ernst Barlach’s expressive carvings from the 20th.

While gratefully accepting historical roots, I am also trying to extend that figurative tradition with a notion advanced by art critic Donald Kuspit, who described sculpture as “metaphor-making in three dimensions”. Because for me the human form remains a powerfully familiar and direct instrument of expression, I use it comparatively in order to extend my sense of the world or at least to make imaginative connections between sometimes disparate things.

Recent pieces, for instance, have an architectural theme and involve multiple figures. Although many of the configurations would be physically unattainable by even extraordinary athletes, my intention here is to create human embodiments of tension, balance, and grace – attributes essential to architecture. We cannot do physically what the sculpture does, but surely we may spiritually. The sculptural metaphor, the comparison of figure to architecture, underscores that potential.

Temporality is a long-standing theme which I explore similarly. Some earlier pieces involve a stop-action idea, in which a single figure executes a series of maneuvers, from beginning to end. More recent work involves multiple figures “frozen” in a moment that implies movement through time: like a flock of air-borne birds, individuals in the rear of a composition will move through the middle, to the front, and ultimately out of view. Embodying its title, the sculpture “Transients” has this implied movement: figures float down, touch ground briefly, and then float up and away. The piece tacitly acknowledges life as transitory, the finiteness of the physical realm as we know it. Other works have a tenuous quality which likewise points, however subtly, to temporal limits. Figures may be dramatically suspended or projected in air, but the sense is that they can’t or won’t stay there long. The moment is fleeting.

A current and main source for much of my imagery is modern dance. Gleaning images of dancers from books, videos, or actual performances, I put together poses and imagine movements that somehow resonate with my interests, and so I am as much choreographer as sculptor. From sketch to maquette to finished sculpture, I try to make inert material dance in ways that might extend our comprehension, and potentially our appreciation, of human experience.

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