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"Scratching the Surface: Contemporary Wood Sculpture" opens at The Craft and Folk Art Museum
“Infinity’s Allure,” William Hunter, primavera, 2011. Courtesy of the artist and del Mano Gallery.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Craft and Folk Art Museum presents Scratching the Surface: Contemporary Wood Sculpture, an exhibition featuring the works of nine contemporary artists whose unique sculptural forms capitalize on the naturally occurring textures and irregularities of wood. This international selection of artists includes Christian Burchard (OR), Todd Hoyer (AZ), William Hunter (CA), Art Liestman (Canada), Pascal Oudet (France), George Peterson (NC), Michael Peterson (WA), Merryll Saylan (CA), and Jack Slentz (NM). The exhibition is curated by Ray Leier and Kate Killinger Werley in association with del Mano Gallery and will be on view through May 5, 2013.

Using both machine-cut and natural surfaces, each of these artists shares a proclivity for working with the grain of wood by reworking its surface via sawing, bleaching, sandblasting, and exposing surfaces to rain, sunlight, and dry heat. Their carving methods range from using the lathe to produce refined shapes, to using chainsaws for unpredictable abstract forms. Relying on a balance of approximation and accident, some of the artists are able to envision how the final artwork will look; while others let the material itself reveal the finished piece.

French woodturner Pascal Oudet uses sandblasting to dislodge the soft wood between the growth rings of the tree. The resulting sculptures are intricate with lace-like surfaces. Oudet describes, “I try to work with these characteristics, playing with the grain through various surface treatments (textures, sandblasting, scorching, colors). Most of the time, I have a precise idea of the piece I want to create, and then look for the wood that will render the effect I’m after.”

Michael Peterson draws inspiration from the natural surroundings of the Pacific Northwest, where he lives and works. Working primarily with a chainsaw, he hollows and carves through damp pieces of wood, which contort into warped form and textures upon drying. “When starting a piece, it's not always best to know where it's headed,” says Peterson. “Rather than thinking my way through a piece, it's more like feeling my way through it.”

Jack Slentz and George Peterson look equally to the natural environment, as well as to designs in the urban landscape when developing concepts. Peterson often carves and paints into recycled wood from skateboards to incorporate an urban motif into his work. Slentz expresses, “The ideas for my artwork come from every day objects, things that we notice and take for granted. Some of the everyday forms I use, as points of departure, are manhole covers, storm grates, and seedpods.”

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