Rock that Yields: “Jason Quigno: Harmony in Stone”, at the Muskegon Museum of Art

Jason Quigno works exclusively in stone, but with a variety of types which is exceptional, because while the finished product may have superficial similarities, each stone has inherent properties that are nearly as different as wood is to metal.  Soapstone is waxy, alabaster is translucent and brittle, marble allows crisp detailed carving, limestone is soft, basalt is dark with a fine grain, granite is hard with visible quartz and feldspar components.  Both basalt and granite are igneous stone, formed from the solidification of molten rock material, quite interesting when one considers the buoyant fluidity of Quigno’s works.  The material started as liquid, became solid, and was again made pliable by the artist.

Harmony in Stone, showcases works completed by the artist over the course of 2013. Quigno’s work can be loosely divided into two genres: non-objective forms, and abstract sculpture of human or animal subjects. Often the artist’s choice of titles indicates that the latter are informed by his Saginaw Chippewa heritage. This exhibition features non-objective works including a gate, several twisted knot forms, a modified granite boulder, and two columnar structures.

Large Column and Column, are tall squared forms that suggest geometricized vertebrae, reminiscent of Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column.   Both Quigno and Brancusi create distilled forms that speak to the collective unconscious. Quigno’s dynamic looping forms, Infinite Flow, and Untitled: Mobius, suggest Art Nouveau, but without the whiplash frenzy often seen in its sculptural applications.

A twisting loop may seem an unremarkable subject, but it’s surprisingly disorienting to encounter a physical object that doesn’t allow the viewer to discern a starting point. There is a similar response to the work of M.C. Escher, but the viewer is always cognizant of the limits of a two-dimensional rendering.  Quigno’s mobius forms are not inspired by mathematics (like those of Escher), but primordial examples like the circle, endless knot, or Ouroboros, which represent infinity or the cyclical nature of life. The implicit message of Quigno’s complex twisted forms is that the path is neither straight, nor facile.

The spiral is another motif prevalent in this series.  Fourth Dimension, Boulder, and Arch, all feature spirals. Balancing on one point, Fourth Dimension resembles a cubed gardenia blossom.  Arch is reminiscent of a Shinto Torii gate with deeply cut undulating lines scaling the posts, culminating in a spiral at the center of the lintel. Boulder is not so much a sculpture as a modified natural boulder that looks like a vertically oriented Japanese tsukubai, with a spiral radiating from a round hollow, terminating at the edge like a pleated hem.  A spiral shares similarities to both the coil and the mobius. Both mobius, and spiral are ambiguous, the former because it offers no perceivable beginning or end, and the latter because it can be interpreted at either radiating, or converging inwards.

The catalyst for Quigno’s artistic career was a workshop taught by Dennis Christy, in which he participated as an adolescent (a testimony to the importance of teaching art to young people, lest you forget what a seminal experience it can be for nascent artists), and later an apprenticeship with sculptor Daniel Mena.

Quigno is represented locally by LaFontsee Galleries, which has locations in Grand Rapids and Saugatuck, Michigan.

Jason Quigno: Harmony in Stone, is part of the Muskegon Museum’s, “Made in Michigan” series that features the work of contemporary Michigan artists.  The exhibit can be seen at the Muskegon Museum of Art through January 19, 2014.

The Muskegon Museum of Art
 is located at 296 W. Webster Ave., Muskegon, Michigan 49440

Admission:   Adults $7, Students (with school I.D.) $5,
Free for members and children under 17

Museum Hours:   Sunday, Noon-4:30PM
Wednesday,10AM-4:30PM
Thursday,10AM-8PM
Friday & Saturday 10AM-4:30PM

-Tamara Fox

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