Allan Rosenbaum's and Yuriko Yamaguchi's sculptures convey poetic meaning at the Hand Workshop. 

Visual Poetry

Allan Rosenbaum and Yuriko Yamaguchi seem to have nothing in common other than that they are both sculptors and they are both currently featured in "Poetic License" at the Hand Workshop Art Center. One was born in the United States, the other is a Japanese native. One employs recognizable subject matter and vibrant color. The other is more aligned to abstraction and a limited palette.

So why did the curator, Ashley Kistler, group these two talented yet artistically disparate sculptors together? The bond perhaps stems from the title of the show itself. In one way or another, both Rosenbaum and Yamaguchi seek to visualize poetry through sculpture.

Rosenbaum's poetry leans towards the whimsical wordplay found in a limerick. His are visual puns, both gleefully playful and menacingly disturbing. Common motifs of Rosenbaum's surreal earthenware designs are two human forearms; pipes spewing water; and anthropomorphized objects such as a blender as a head, or steps with female breasts. Though they are wacky in their effervescent color and dimpled tactile form, this doesn't belie the inherent danger lurking beneath. "Ringer," for example, is a black ceramic rotary phone with a human nose attached. This is a phone one would not want to answer. Even the title wittily serves to describe the sound of a phone, but also connotes a dead ringer or identical lookalike.

Perhaps the more intriguing work is Rosenbaum's "Maquettes." These are small unpainted terra-cotta objects, about 50 or so, which are displayed on tiny wooden ledges. The maquettes, or models, are preparatory studies for the larger finished works. Nevertheless, they have a wonderful raw quality that conveys the sculptural evolutionary process. Many of the objects — a bicycle emerging from a torso or a radiator made up of books — reveal a freshness and spontaneity reminiscent of Japanese haniwa figures or West Mexican pre-Columbian ceramics. Together, they make up the workings of the artist's mind; the letters, words and punctuation of the poem that comes to fruition in the large finished pieces.

If Rosenbaum creates quirky visual ditties, then Yamaguchi explores the more evocative form of haiku. Haiku is never explicit, but rather suggestive and connotative. Because of the brevity of lines and syllables, language must be concise, yet implicative. The very perimeters placed on haiku inform Yamaguchi's sculpture. Her largely abstract wood and mixed-media objects, mounted on the wall or hung from the ceiling, are composed of self-imposed tones of browns, creams and black. Yamaguchi is superior in rendering forms that suggest, but don't quite tell. "Metamorphosis" is seven sets of four objects hung in a grid pattern. Each hints at an organic form — a pod, shell, intestinal tract or beehive — but does not completely represent that respective object. One seeks to see the metamorphosis of the title, but searches in vain. A bird's-nest form is stacked over a fallopian tube-esque form that is stacked over a cerebrumlike form. How are they connected? Perhaps in the same way a chick emerges from an egg or a butterfly from a cocoon; neither one looks like its source, but they certainly are inextricably linked.

"Poetic License" offers the viewer a lyrical world rendered in three dimensions. Both Rosenbaum and Yamaguchi are visual poets; this show proves that they definitely know it.


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