“The Nature of Trophies”
RB Stevenson Gallery, La Jolla CA
March 14-May 2, 2015
Article by Cathy Breslaw
It can be said that “context is everything”. In the case of sculptor Jeff Irwin’s current exhibition, it is most certainly the case. Irwin’s earthenware works are entirely white with a luminescent white glaze, and all the surfaces in the gallery are white including floors, walls, ceiling and display structures. In addition, climbing the stairs leading up to RB Stevenson Gallery adds to the feel of arriving in a hazy, ghost-like ‘heavenly’ space, edging upon the spiritual. Entering the gallery, the first piece “Jumping Deer” greets you. A deer in active motion is cut in two segments so that the head and front two legs face you, while you have to peek around to other side of the wall to find the other ‘half’ of it’s body. Another adjacent piece, called “Striving”, a pig head holding up a tree branch with its snout, and a cone-like form hanging from it , speaks to one of Irwin’s underlying conceptual ideas. Curiously, though the works are made from clay materials, the pieces are intentionally created to look like wood with all the nubbiness one sees on tree limbs as well as ‘sawed off’ areas in the details of the works. Many different animal images emerge including a pig, dog, deer, cat, coyote, duck, woodpecker, horse, bear, buck and antelope. Though some animal heads hang from the wall like trophies, others appear to speak mostly to environmental concerns. One wall features three horses called “Win” “Place”“Show”, - only the heads and front legs are visible, as if the horses are actively running through the wall to meet the viewer. There is a certain humbleness in the nature of the material and content of Irwin’s work, as well as a clarity of purpose. The hybridization of trees and animals integrated into mostly animal forms reminds us of the connections existing among all living things and nature.