Tenri Cultural Institute
Sylvia Wald mines moments, chronicling encounters with objects, shapes, colors, and coincidences in a limitless, life long dialog. In discussing how Wald constantly changes, adds to, or reorients her finished work, curator Thalia Vrachopoulos writes: “By so extending her works Wald, in a way, is stating that life and art are one and that as long as she’s living so are her works.” Wald, by never completing many of her multitudinous hybrids, by never thinking in terms of definitive dates or titles, boldly ignores the art system.
Wald’s art is powerful and endearing. As a vastly underappreciated, first generation Abstract Expressionist. Wald’s art is about the experience of making sculpture, as much as Pollock’s art was about the act of painting. Wald allows herself to be moved, and she shows her emotions in her art.
Smokestacks (2002–present), a mix of telephone wire, metal wire, plaster, and wood planking is one of the most stirring pedestal sized sculptures I’ve seen in quite some time. Its impact, its form and tension, is unforgettable. Woven Wall (1980–present) has all the physical ingredients of Smokestacks, plus some very familiar ones: nylon stockings, yarn, string, rags, all tied or wrapped around various key elements of a vertical form that reminded me of a tabernacle. I did not get the feeling, though, that Wald was attempting to create a site of worship. Rather, this work felt more like a place of repose or meditation. Perhaps closer to an Eastern philosophy. This, more than likely, comes from her life bond with the well known painter Po Kim, who also sees the import of a peaceful existence.
Works like Cloud (1977–present) and “Lotus” (2001–present) have a similar sense of whimsy, an important undercurrent in Wald’s methodology. In looking at her work, one imagines Wald is having a bit of fun making art. She slides easily between her daily experiences and her art making, and she has a decidedly optimistic approach, and an affectionate connection to her materials.
In Renewal (2004–present) and Reflections (2003–present), one sees a sort of regenerative attitude. In Reflections specifically, there is this underlying sense of hope. The form, which looks something like a downed trunk of the shallow rooted cotton wood tree, is both desolate and grand. Much like an architectural relic one envisions finding deep inside some ancient, remote jungle. On what could be seen as the back of the sculpture, Wald places a lengthy piece of cord, which traces a sinuous and seductive path. This gesture adds life to the dead form, bringing forward a refreshing, uplifting spirit. Her energy, her approach to her surroundings should inspire many to reflect, reexamine and recreate.