Wendy Ross, a Washington-area sculptor, has often exhibited with other artists who explore organic abstraction, an ongoing interest in this region. Her work in “Elusive Source,” a 1995 group show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, probed the inner life of crafted objects. The pieces were made from encaustic, rhoplex, and leather, and mimicked natural forms to create psychological myths. lnstead of psychic insight, however, the work (occasionally) came across as self-parody.
ln her show at Gallery K, Boss replaced the softer, organic materials with welded steel. ln a number of works, Ross has joined small, black, steel plugs in varying densities and concentrations into vase forms and seed pods. ln others, steel rods form open spheres with oblong projections, like cells branching out into new appendages. ln all, Ross strikes a tension between the no-nonsense attitude of the steel, in rigid geometric shapes, and the primitive tales regarding growth and transmutation inherent in the shapes. lndeed, the authority of the steel asserts a “natural” authenticity missing in the earlier work.
Another difference in this show is in the work’s relation to the room. Because the earlier pieces focused on seed as metaphor, many were placed directly on the floor. Here, the essential element is air and Boss’s geometric forms tend to be spatial. Granatum (1996) hangs suspended over a stairway, its six projecting limbs conjuring motion, optimism, and certainty. Constellation (1996), an open half-sphere of delicately
connected steel rods, rests against the wall like a window. Looking onto a sky filled with unknown stars. The work is also more decorative . Millefiore (1991) is an airy sphere constructed from arcs of steel, many of which end with black steel plugs, creating fleur-de-lis. Air moving through the gallery sets the sphere spinning, casting gentle shadows on the gallery wall.
As in her earlier work, Boss still explores the seed as metaphor. ln Apical (1997), a collar of welded black lozenges, gently bowed back against the wall, supports a cone-shaped form tilting skywards, creating a nice tension between the vertical spread of the collar and the upward thrust of the cone. The work is a startling cross between the delicacy of a flower and the protection of armor.
Finally, Ross’s narrative impulses are still strong. ln Out of Line (1997), a compact sphere with flapping black plugs twists free from a welded network of black lozenges, sprawled flat against the wall like a body. Like myriad eyes, the plugs appear to be reflecting back on their origins. While Foss’s story is hard to decode, her theme is self-awareness and self-reflection.
Ross performs a balancing act. Not only are her works delicately poised in space, but she balances a feminist concern for organic forms and growth with the masculine authority of steel, no slight achievement.