Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sculptor Melds Cultural Objects ART OF METAMORPHOSIS

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sculptor Melds Cultural Objects ART OF METAMORPHOSIS

Article excerpt

'I am large, I contain multitudes," the poet Walt Whitman wrote in "Song of Myself." The same might be said of sculptor Michael Lucero, whose work is being shown at the American Craft Museum here. Not that Lucero is physically large, but his work spans multitudes of motifs. The 47 sculptures in the retrospective "Michael Lucero: Sculpture 1976-1995" contain enough references to populate a Whole Earth Catalog.

"The idea of inventing an original form didn't seem interesting to me," the sculptor said in an interview in his Lower East Side studio. "The idea of merging was more interesting. Art is inclusive, so I was never intimidated to clone an image temporarily and then move on."

Lucero's first mid-career survey reveals him to be a man for all continents who creates an aggregate art. His favorite image, often painted on his ceramic pieces, is a moth symbol of metamorphosis. "A moth represents many times and places and changes. It turns into other things, dies, and is reborn," he says. Lucero's forms inhabit new formats reflecting the history of pottery and sculpture from ancient Greece to pop kitsch. Wearing a Breton fisherman's shirt and moccasins, his fingers smeared with green paint from a face-jug he was painting, Lucero says his works show "art can be fun and compelling too." Lucero grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, making frequent visits to New Mexico to visit grandparents and soak up the spirit of native American pottery. His earliest works in the show, "shard figures" from 1976, allude to the fragments of Acoma pots he found in arroyos, which excited his imagination, as well as archaeological finds of shattered Greek urns. He makes these influences his own by hanging the shards from wires to define original shapes, as in "Untitled (Hanging Ram)." Only Lucero would put Humpty Dumpty back together again as the mischievous figure "Untitled (Devil)," whose arms curl into a pitchfork and pointed tail. Eight phases (Lucero tends to work in series) and two decades later, the artist still fuses a hodgepodge of forms through his singular vision. In his current series, "Reclamations," Lucero appends new ceramic bits to vintage, often damaged artifacts like garden statues. "Conquistador" (1995) started with a broken patio statue of a Spanish soldier, to which Lucero added a tomato-red teapot as a head. "What could I do to express how this guy acted?" Lucero recalls the process of creating the piece. "I inflated his head and reduced it to a vessel, which is sort of a ridiculous spoof." He collaborates with, rather than dominating, his found objects. "I gave this little figurine another chance to exist. I wanted to dance with it and make something beautiful." Lucero's work is now seen as a consummate example of post-modern appropriation and multiculturalism, although his pieces predated these art-world trends. …

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