Magazine article Artforum International

Christopher Wilmarth: Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums

Magazine article Artforum International

Christopher Wilmarth: Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums

Article excerpt

Christopher Wilmarth (1943-87) is best known for his spare and sensuous sheets of etched plate glass and steel, sculpted in a style described by Donald Kuspit in these pages as "expressive Minimalism." This show of fifty-eight drawings, sketchbooks, paper and card maquettes, and technical-specification sheets is the first to examine the artist's practice through his career-long reliance on drawing. Dotted with quotations from the artist's private papers, this exhibition demonstrates that Wilmarth was a romantic soul who moved as fluidly between drawing and sculpture as he did between reality and the imagination.

The show is divided roughly into three sections: student and other work from the '60s; hybrid "drawings" from the early '70s, constructed from etched glass and steel cables; and drawings executed between the mid-'70s and 1987 (when Wilmarth committed suicide at age forty-four). From Iris earliest days as a student at Cooper Union, Wilmarth merged a love for the gritty bridges of New York City with an admiration for the fluid contour and sense of humanity in the work of his heroes Matisse, Brancusi, and Giacometti. Wilmarth's tendency to anthropomorphize architecture is evident in one of the earliest works in the show, Platform Dream #5, 1963. Though inspired by the Queensboro Bridge, with its angles, curves, and shadings, the work is more evocative of the fecund lower torso and leg of a nude ha silhouette. The luscious charcoal drawing Shifrah, 1964, a Matisse-like nude of his then-new bride, artist Susan Wilmarth-Rabineau, can barely contain the woman's sensuous energy as she strides across the page, with abstract ovoid head and powerful legs cropped.

Minimalism was ascendant as Wilmarth came of age, and, after spending the late '60s as assistant to Tony Smith, he began to make sculpture from square and rectangular panes of glass, etching an expressive surface with hydrofluoric acid. …

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