Twenty years ago sculptor Sam Perry decided to change mediums from clay to wood, influenced by his long-term role as the director of conservation at Runnymede Sculpture Farm in Woodside, CA. Clew, Perry's solo exhibition opening at Rena Bransten Gallery on September 7, showcases his most delicate work to date, and confirms his mastery of his chosen medium.
The current exhibition is named for five iterative works Clew I – Clew V. Originally conceived as a single massive screen-form structure, the works have been installed in the gallery to allow visitors to walk between the interlacing attenuated pieces.
Since the beginning of his journey with wood, Perry has experimented with sculpture that seems to bend, twist, or melt in front of the viewer, who may not realize every piece is carved from a single branch, log, or stump of wood (mostly sourced from Runnymede). Clew I – Clew V are continuations of Perry’s organic style, but in these works the artist obfuscates where each tenuous element begins and ends.
Perry's signature sense of humor shows up in his titles. In the case of the Clew works, the title is indeed a clue, here meaning yarn or thread used to guide one's way through a maze or labyrinth, and also referring to a tangled clew of worms. Perry first started experimenting with clusters of small branches in 2012, and here advances the concept on a massive scale.
Navel-Gazing is an anthropomorphic knot twisting and bending to look in on itself. Oxidized to an ebony color, Last Dance is two lovers holding on until the end. Butterfly Supernova is a crucible transformed from a massive solid tree trunk, riven with fissures from the process of transformation.
Made from the same trunk as Butterfly, Instrospection is at once solid and ephemeral with deep fissures that resemble veins. DQ is a tall expression of melting soft serve.