Machine Aesthetics: Sculpture by David Deming at the Muskegon Museum of Art
by Tamara Fox
David Deming’s show at the Muskegon Museum of Art is comprised of approximately thirty sculptures, as well as several drawings and wood maquettes. The latter give insight into the artist’s working process, as well as the origin of several repeated forms. Some of the featured abstract motifs have been explored by Deming for decades. Vertically oriented Flora and Centurion suggest the subjects from which their monikers were chosen. Many of the Rocker series resemble Neolithic cong or bi discs, and Tri Pods look like pieces of an engine.
It is tempting to overlook this sort of abstract sculpture since it formally resembles what became the preferred institutional standard of 1970s public sculpture, but these selections are surprisingly compelling. The scale of Deming’s work is very human, and gallery lighting surrounds freestanding pieces with layered radiating shadows. Furthermore, the surfaces that retain marks from the grinding wheel subtly change as the viewer moves through the gallery. The experience is markedly different than looking at works by Alexander Calder or Mark di Suvero silhouetted against the sky.
Exhibition didactics indicate that the artists David Smith and Henry Moore inspired Deming. The influence of Smith is apparent in the direct metal constructions with visible traces from grinding. The Rocker and Tri Pods clearly owe something to Henry Moore, but Deming’s selections at the MMA are more whimsical and geometric that Moore’s organic archetypes. There is an element of absurd whimsy to Deming’s abstractions that resonate with the machine aesthetic that was prevalent in early modern art and design movements.
A graduate of Cranbrook Academy of Art, Deming has worked as an artist, educator, and arts administrator. His preferred medium is metal, but his subject matter varies from conventional figurative portraits, amusing dog sculptures, and the non-objective examples which comprise the entire MMA exhibition.
David Deming: Sculpture, can be seen in the Michael and Kay Olthoff/Thelma and Paul Wiener Gallery through December 11, 2016.
Muskegon Museum of Art is located at 296 W. Webster Ave., Muskegon, Michigan 49440 Free parking is available.
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