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Exhibition of nine works from 1959 to 1966 by Robert Mallary opens at Allan Stone Projects

Robert Mallary, Ballerina, 1960. Mixed media and resin, 50 x 59 x 4 1/2 in. 127 x 149.9 x 11.4 cm. Courtesy: Allan Stone Projects, New York.

NEW YORK, NY.- Allan Stone Projects announces Robert Mallary Sculptor, April 24-June 27, 2014, an exhibition of nine works from 1959 to 1966, the period in which he established himself in New York as a central figure in the Neo-Dadaist assemblage and junk art movement that followed on the heels of Abstract Expressionism. In an idiosyncratically dark vocabulary, he combined fragments from his surroundings with the pioneering use of resin to create moody, allusive meditations on the nature of materiality and the contemplation of transience.

Resin provided a physical permanence and a means to present fragile, fragmentary and eroded subjects: trash, cardboard, cloth and clothing, gravel and dirt, wood scraps. By melding such diverse and humble sources with polyester resin as a binding agent, Mallary sought to reconcile structure, gesture and content, in ways not unlike his abstract expressionist forebearer Franz Kline, whose paintings combined energetic brush work with architectonic forms originally inspired by his surroundings.

While his work had intuitive, dynamic and experiential qualities akin to Abstract Expressionism, Mallary’s interest in the associative potential of materials, their physical presence and allusive effects, distinguished him as a unique voice among the varied artistic experimentations in New York of the late-1950s and 1960s. In 1959 Mallary was included in two Museum of Modern Art exhibitions Sculpture U.S.A. and Sixteen Americans, followed by a 1960 Guggenheim International Award and exhibition. In 1961, Mallary’s work was featured in Life magazine and the Museum of Modern Art exhibition Art of Assemblage. At Allan Stone Gallery he had three solo shows in the 60s and a group show with sculptors John Anderson, Cesar and John Chamberlain. By 1968, Mallary was also included in five annuals at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the VII Bienal de Sao Paolo, the Seattle and New York World’s Fairs, and had a retrospective at SUNY Potsdam.

Mallary’s use of new polymers and plastics in combination with overtly low-tech materials expanded creative inroads for both technology and democratized sources. By assimilating dirt and grime in his works and surmounting their effects, he assimilated time and entropy as subjects, claiming them as part of the content of the work. His works’ anthropomorphic references and undercurrents of doom, both in the imagery and in titles sourced from classical mythology, invoked enduring ideological quandaries. Ultimately, the significance of Mallary’s work persists because of the transitory nature of its origins, a condition that resonates in its paradox.

Born in Toledo, Ohio, Mallary studied art from childhood. As a teen, he developed an interest in the Mexican muralists that led him to Mexico City in his 20s to study with José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Inspired by Siqueiros’ advocacy for the use of technology in art, Mallary began experimenting with plastics in 1938 and by the 1940s and 50s was making luminescent sculptures with Lucite, acetate, fiberglass, and liquid plastics. While teaching in Los Angeles, Mallary exhibited paintings made of polyester at the Urban Gallery in New York in 1954, and was included in three annuals at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Until the late 1950s he spent time in New Mexico teaching and making reliefs incorporating sand and straw with polyester resin, that alluded to the region’s landscape and petroglyphs. In 1959 Mallary took a teaching position at Pratt and moved to New York, where he would combine the brooding weight and density of the New Mexico abstractions with ephemeral urban detritus. Due to illness, Mallary gave up the use of resin, and shifted his focus to other mediums including bronze casting. He turned to computers as a tool for making art, exhibiting one of the first computer-designed sculptures in London in 1968. He continued to write, lecture and develop software for creating sculpture. From 1967 until his retirement in 1996, Mallary taught art at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He died in Northampton, MA in 1997.

Mallary’s work is held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts Houston; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo; University of California, Berkeley; University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; SUNY Potsdam; and has been written about in Time, Life, Artforum, Art in America and ArtNews.

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