David M. Roth, Squarecylinder: Ewerdt Hilgemann
Letter From Los Angeles
By David M. Roth Oct. 3, 2010
For nearly a week we roamed: from Santa Monica to Hollywood, from Beverly Hills to downtown, and from Claremont to Pasadena. We reveled in the wackiness and tackiness of it all — and yes, got stuck in some epic traffic snarls. Our reward: a handful of worthy shows, some of them life-changing.
German sculptor Ewerdt Hilgemann’s solo U.S. debut, Panta Rhei, at Samuel Freeman creates frisson through an altogether different means: he converts the raw, inert mass of stainless steel forms into an experience of specular light by figuratively imploding them. To demonstrate, Freeman shows me a video of the artist working in his studio. With an impish twinkle in his eye, Hilgemann explains how he begins with basic forms: triangles, squares and oblong rectangles that he builds from sheet metal and buffs to a seamless, high gloss. Some are small enough to fit on a pedestal; others approximate the size of human figures. To these he welds a pneumatic valve which, when hooked to a generator, sucks the air out of each object with a loud boom.
Their kicked-in, hollowed-out look feels like a perceptual trick whose impact is compounded by the way they simultaneously reflect and refract light. No, they don’t produce the giddy, hall-of-mirrors effect of say, Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, but on a vastly smaller scale, they come proportionally close. They evoke the glossy sheen of minimalism while simultaneously issuing a poke in the eye to its purist orthodoxies. Donald Judd’s gleaming boxes: deflated!