Scissor, Paint, and Chisel: Art by Robert Hall and Enzo Torcoletti

October 17, 2017

What do you make of the mature years, in a career as an artist and teacher of your craft?

In Bob Hall’s oeuvre, the culmination of collage-keeping (for that is what artists do: keep and recycle), he has taken what is at hand and has remembered, over a life of seven decades, and he has told us stories about ourselves, our common culture, with both the good parts and the regrettable moments of history.

His narrative, which travels the cut edges of his scavenged images, tells us of ancient languages, wars, vanished civilizations, storms, and the injustices of modern life.He directly addresses the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Northern Africa, the obsession with fossil fuels, and the conquests to control them, with a scolding of our rich society exploiting poor people in foreign lands to increase profits.

How can acrylic/collages do all this? It is the juxtaposition of images which creates the insistent message in each picture. He conflates the violence in our wars abroad with the violence in our country. He “sneaks” as a Gestalt, an image of arms and hands, which seem to be pieces of sculpture until it sinks in that these are human parts, buried in rubble from explosions. He shows us soldiers, “dressed to kill,” juxtaposed with soldiers whose eyes searchingly plead for mercy from mortal wounds.

These are not “pretty” works; a quick glance would only tell you that they are attractively-rendered, and colourful. Technically, Hall has not invented a new way to paint, but, a double-take pulls you into the narrative, which is the most important aspect of his work, and you find yourself searching the pictures, reading the narrative, discovering the reasons you looked in the first place: you have to understand what it means. Hall reveals the dark side of Humanity.

Enzo Torcoletti, by contrast, gives us the other aspect of the eternal, a theme enveloped in forms i would describe as, modern neo-classical. His work suggests; it does not pronounce. It is most always about gesture.

Surrounded on four walls by Hall’s acrylic/collages, Torcoletti has displayed 6 sculptures, made of materials such as wood and various coloured marbles from quarries throughout the country. Each is uniquely rendered, giving us the range of his virtuosity.

The first of these is “Silent Idol,” of grey North Carolina marble. It is a vertical, slender work with alternation of shape and texture: elongated triangles of highly-polished surface, counterpointed with elongated rectangles, roughly striated with horizontal ripples. The apex, emerging from the highly polished “chest” of the figure, is a “head” with a through and through hole: the all-seeing eye of the idol. But, as with contemporary “celebrity-type” idols, one looks into the eye, and sees through the figure, to “nothing.”

All of these works are about 3-4 feet, not monumental, but authoritative in their use of gesture. Torcoletti is a master of human gesture. “Venus Disrobing,” for instance, captures a movement so ordinary, and yet, so universal, that it adds an additional gesture to Classical Venusian iconography.

Made of Vermont, Tennessee and Georgia marble, the figure of Venus stands on a grey-white base of dull finish, with shallow chisel marks on the surface. The figure, itself, by contrast, is a highly polished carving in a warm, flecked, rose-tan stone, with a softly-textured white Georgia marble garment, covering her head and arms, the forms of which which are suggested in the folds. The whole effect is less erotic than tenderly sensitive to human gesture.

A master sculptor sees the possibilities in the material and takes its weaknesses and turns them into strengths. So Torcoletti does with “Ambrosia II,” made ofbeautiful Red Bay wood, in several sections, “split” from the main body of the figure, with the adjacent parts, “fitting” loosely, with dowels; the vertical seams
of each section painted black, to accentuate the line of the figure, which curves, as the human body does in gentle motion. Even the checking of the wood adds to the gesture.

The next piece in the lineup is a modest figure of Indiana limestone with a green marble base. Suggestive of Archaic Greek archetypes, the piece, titled, “Gemini,”
is simple in execution, with a mat surface and vertical drapery dividing the figure in two, reinforcing the doubling notion of the astrological sign, Gemini.

The calm attitude continues in another wooden piece, “Goddess (Eve),”
carved from Sassafras wood. The proclivities and declivities of this figure swirl around the waist (literally, as one can move the upper part), with parts of the figure abstracted into swelling breasts/shoulders, hips, expressing the “power” of a Goddess in proud gesture.

The grain of this beautiful wood, a sienna red-brown colour, recalls the ripples of “wet-drapery,” found on carvings from Greek 5th century BC sculptures. As always, Torcoletti exploits the properties of his material, enhancing the idea.

The only reclining figure, “Fragmented Model,” carved from a beautiful piece of onyx, is not as unified a form as the other pieces. Torcoletti has been limited, as sculptors are, by the shape of the block of marble, to carve a figure whose gesture suggests reclining on her elbows. He follows the grain of the stone, from the neck to the knees, searching out the form, which is a successful one, but the visual intrusion of 2 hard-edged, “L” shaped supports, where elbows would have been, breaks the sinuous line of the piece. Perhaps these were needed as support for the armless female figure, but one imagines, if they were not there, and the balance of the piece could rest on the mid-section of the figure, that the empty space below the chest where arms would have been, would add greater tension and drama to the work.  Perhaps, this is an early work. No dates were given.

This is a stimulating exhibition of two very different artists. The juxtaposition of their work adds to the impact of each one. Reddi-Arts has provided, once again, a chance to see exceptional work by master artists.