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Damien Hoar De Galvan at Carroll and Sons

by Sam Nickerson

July 23, 2015



Damien Hoar De Galvan at Carroll and Sons  - Sam Nickerson The sculptures of ‘Wake Up,’ Damien Hoar de Galvan’s first solo show at Carroll and Sons, emphasize process over results.

The whimsical, colorful oblongs – mostly constructed on thin wooden strips – make for a breezy, light summer show.

Hoar de Galvan begins his pieces with a found object or shape – the wood used in the sculptures is from the reconstruction of his house – and a plan to “play” with the art-making process, whether by taking something sloppy and making it uniform, or whether to take time or to rush.

And while Hoar de Galvan tried to end up with a collection of tight and controlled pieces, this was rarely the case. Instead, asymmetry rules over precision. Gut instinct trumps meditation.

Take the 9” x 12.5” x 2.5” ‘Sign,” for instance. At first glance, its octagonal shape and smattering of red immediately triggers the image of a stop sign in the mind. But only seven of the eight sides are of comparable length, and a vertical, bisecting line divides the wooden plies into lopsided haves. The horizontal plies making up the sculpture hardly match up on either side of this dividing line.

Similar gut reactions take place throughout the collection. ‘Little one,” is an angular piece that is much smaller than its larger counterpart; ‘Head’ is a multi-colored silhouette of a human head. ‘Yellow One’ is, well, just that.

None of the works – outside of ‘Hanging On,’ a hodgepodge 9” x 21” x 9” mountain of bottlecaps held together by visible glue globules – are large or imposing. Instead, most of the collection, set densely on one long table, resembles something of a postmodern cemetery, with its arrangement of lop-sided, Technicolor headstones.

And in place of textual epitaphs, the interior of each is inscribed with brightly colored angles neatly stacked upon each other or boxes and triangles squeezed in wherever there is room.

Summer is the season for playful sculpture in Boston. Hoar de Galvan’s collection is the perfect unofficial companion to Arlene Shechet’s clay and plaster mash-ups of function and fantasy over at the ICA. While Schechet’s creations demand attention and are comprised of more malleable materials, Hoar de Galvan is more concerned with the act of making, and his more minute work seems on the edge of being overlooked, if not for their sheer numbers.

But things might not all be so rosy in “Wake Up.”

Aside from the densely populated center table, the walls of the show are sparsely decorated. Instead, a single, small frame may sit – far from the center – on the wall to one side, or a shelf juts out, housing a sculpture that is similar at first glance to those in the middle of the room, but occupies a different space altogether.

The more open and web-like sculptures that dot the perimeter of the show – such as “Empty Head,” “Little Bits,” and most notably, “Everything in its right place” – appear alone, in stark contrast with Hoar de Galvan’s more closed work at the center. While the shapes are as oblong and off-kilter as the others, these pieces replace the solidity of the interior angles and shapes with holes and gaps.

These three sculptures are the stars of the show. Their openness provides room to breath, and the same delicate work needed to build a house of cards connects the thin strips of wood in the interior of each work to one another.

Then there are the child-like “non-art” drawings on the other walls.

Likely created in 30 seconds or less, each is named after a frustration or fear – “I Don’t Know What I Believe,” – and Hoar de Galvan likened them to mantras or chances to vent when struggling with a sculpture. “I’ve always been scared,” scrawled on stationary from the High Line Hotel in New York, spits it’s namesake mantra from an erratic speech bubble. But problems, he says, are part of the art-making process, and find their way into the show nonetheless.

In both the paper work and the more open sculptures on the perimeter, the titles of the works betray some anxiety, whether due the “non-art” nature of the artist’s work that could provoke some self-doubt in an art market that prizes technical prowess, or in the artist’s daily life as a creator.

In this latter supposition, perhaps it is the Artist’s (capital ‘A’ intended) natural tendency to create – with whatever is at hand – as a means of therapy. And in the way that the framed works embody the frustrations manufactured in works at the center of the room, perhaps the open, web-like sculptures are dream-catchers, absorbing and filtering the joy, anger, and frustration – the natural expressions that accompany the act of making – for Hoar de Galvan and the viewer to recycle again and again.