Watch Your Head!
Norman Sherfield's new and recent work at Piante
If you walk into Piante gallery this month, you'll be confronted with, among other things, a headless Buddha statue, Hummel figurines with "alternative" heads, Godzilla, robots, objects wrapped in pig gut, and lots of knots. No, you haven't tumbled into an acid-trip version of your grandmother's curio cabinet. You have, in fact, entered Norman Sherfield's new exhibition, "Chosen Objects: Merz Sideshow."
Merz(a nonsensical term Dada artist Kurt Schwitters coined to describe his collages of scavenged materials) figures prominently in Sherfield's process and aesthetic. "I have piles and piles of stuff," Sherfield said. If something at the thrift store catches his eye, he brings it home. For some recent work, Sherfield has combined discarded figurines with other found objects, changing their personalities. "I definitely have a proclivity toward removing heads and giving objects new heads. I'm not sure what that says about me," Sherfield said wryly, "but it's something that's happening these days." The newly topped figures range in feeling from playful to mildly ominous.
Biological science, Dadaism, Surrealism, and the composer John Cage are among Sherfield's influences. "I don't draw anything out," he said, describing his automatism-inspired process. "I just add things and take things off. I like the idea of things not being planned."
Sherfield will also be introducing what he refers to as, "gut creatures." For these pieces, he stretches pig gut (yup, you read that right) over a variety of found objects creating otherworldly sculptural forms. "I use pig gut because it's the most transparent of the guts," Sherfield explained. The transparency allows viewers to glimpse inside the forms, affording murky views of the everyday and forgotten objects Sherfield collected and tucked away. It's an experience not unlike our often hazy, incomplete recollection of the past.
The show will include some of Sherfield's older, textile sculptures as well. Using a knotting basketry technique, Sherfield crafts small, brightly colored pieces suggestive of fantastical figures and creatures. If Dr. Suess published a biology textbook, these pieces would work as illustrations.
Sherfield's photography is also featured in "Chosen Objects." Like his other work, many of the photographs rely on found imagery. Sherfield layers images from magazines and books. The result is often the transformation of mundane into unexpected. Another series of photographs depicts a large, headless, concrete Buddha. The photographs portray the statue with substitute crowns. The statue itself will be on hand, and Buddha-selfies are encouraged.