March 25, 2009

Worth His Weight In Plaster

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The fulcrum is a handshake. It’s an exchange of power, a link between bodies, the passing of traditions and a tight squeeze for love.
“It all rests in the hands,” Noah Robbins ’10 said about the two statues he has constructed for his untitled exhibit that explores these themes and is currently open in Tjaden gallery.
Two heavy, white-plaster casts of individual male torsos perch atop wood crate-like pedestals. The two bodies unite by extended arms — they hold hands out between the two wooden columns on which they rest. One body is from a smaller man, presumably a younger man, and both bodies seem immensely unyielding and weighty. The two arms that extend over the gap between the pedestals seem uncommonly fragile.
“The hands kept breaking,” Robbins said. “This is the sixth cast of each body.”
Nonetheless, the firm-gripping handshake provides some stability.
Across the room stands a metal frame. Below it dangles a pair of huge pajamas squished between two large Plexiglass plates. The glass pancakes the pajamas to create a starkly thin contrast with the massive plaster bodies across the room. A motor spins the glass around in a continuous loop, suggesting themes of repetition and continuity and quietly hinting at the motion of turning hands on the face of a clock.
Robbins’ installation both explicitly and implicitly, in material, design and conception, speaks to the theme of passing time.
“It’s about generations,” Robbins said as he highlighted the moment when the glass frame dissects the two bodies at the handshake. Additionally, as the pajamas spin around they become more and more weightless — jarring in contrast to the large physical presence of the bodies across the room.
But this contrast only highlights the theme of change that echoes throughout the installation. There’s change from thin to thick, from light to heavy, from young to old.
“You need to spend time with it,” Robbins said. “I don’t want to say too much.”
Indeed, each minute reveals more exciting details and, certainly, any time spent with this work will not be wasted. Robbins has completed a show of uncommon complexity, as each new detail illuminates more shades of similar themes. The exhibit’s material palette — wood pedestals stand as tree trunks and recall organic life — and process — models sit for hours on end in the plaster casting process — speak to time passing, moving on and growing up. Fitting, then, that in its execution and presentation it’s a uniquely mature piece of art.

Noah Robbins will be exhibiting in Olive Tjaden Gallery in Tjaden Hall through March 28. The opening reception is tomorrow and open to all.