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ROSS RUDEL  /  OMPHALOS  /  January 5, 2007 – February 3, 2007  /

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Installation View, 2007

January 5 – February 3, 2007
Opening Reception: Friday, January 5, 2006, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Opening on January 5, 2007, Jack Shainman Gallery is pleased to present Omphalos, an exhibition of new work by Los Angeles-based sculptor Ross Rudel.  Minimal in form yet complex in both technique and surface treatment, Rudel’s objects are enigmas, as his technical precision manages to locate the work somewhere between natural and manmade without visually sacrificing one for the other.  Rudel’s recent exhibitions include Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA, Cincinnati Art Center, Cincinnati, OH, and Museo di Arte, Trento e Rovereto, Italy.  This will be Rudel’s fourth solo exhibition at Jack Shainman Gallery.
As in Rudel’s previous series, the works comprising Omphalos are, at first glance, simple, nearly iconic forms hovering between formalist and biomorphic abstraction. Upon closer inspection, subtleties emerge from the artist’s careful attention to the properties of his materials that add both tactility and conceptual layering – wood grain, for example, is enhanced and takes on a vein-like quality. Furthermore, intensive surface treatments such as staining, bleaching, and drawing on wood allude to patterns found in nature while suggesting the presence of a human, or manual, gesture.
The term “omphalos” – Greek for “navel” – also refers to a center (or center of the Universe), a theme at play in most of Rudel’s work.  Inspired by two-dimensional representations of sacred geometry, Rudel reconsiders historical symbology in three-dimensional form, thus presenting more accessible versions of what he refers to as “visual meditations.”  For example, 405 Yantra (2006), a radiating star shape made from stained wood, carrion blossom, and acrylic resin, references the Indian or Hindu Sri Yantra, a matrix of shapes based on a geometrical pattern. Typically used as meditation tools, yantras are believed to allow connection to one’s divine energies.  Rudel’s interest in the Sri Yantra, rooted in its history as a representation of male and female balance, reiterates the idea of “center” while suggesting an inherent dichotomy: the center of the work is a carrion blossom, a flower known for its visual beauty yet having the smell of rotting meat.
In Utriusque Cosmi, After Robert Flood (2006), slats of lightly stained wood radiate from a dense, graphite center, creating a perfect circle against a pure black rectangular support. The resulting form is anchored in heavy black, accentuating its pictorial boundaries.  Conversely, in Fairy Star (2006), oil applied to bent ash creates an interlocking, seven-point star that floats against the wall in graduated colors of the spectrum.
A work entitled Golden Chain references a connection between heaven and earth. The wood used to create the piece was severed from a great oak in Griffith Park (Los Angeles) by a bolt of lightning. Some of the objects were created by steam bending the wood – a process that through heat and moisture renders a solid fluid and back to solid. In the brief interim, the solid can be 'convinced' of an entirely new reality through the physical pressure of the process.
Both meditative and vaguely otherworldly, Rudel’s works seem to explore the limitations of materials and form while simultaneously offering the process of woodworking as an inroad to spiritual growth and recognition.
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