Judy Raymer Ivkoff "Root Force"

Sep 8, 2011 - Sep 25, 2011

Judy Ivkoff’s sculptures largely stand outside the vicious circle of postmodernist art where concepts dominate to the detriment of integration. Instead these sculptures, whether the large scale Forest series, or the small scale Sightings are involved with the processes of birth, growth, life, death, decay and rebirth we are a part of. Indeed much of sculptural history has involved the segregation of art from life, though life’s forms, designs were replicated, and interpreted by sculptors such as Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Naum Gabo, Constantin Brancusi, the era of sustainability now challenges that great gap between art and life.

Art can now direct us towards the ecosystem we are a part of, and the landscapes that are like living laboratories with sculptures within them. The physics of materials is something that most of us are unaware of. Judy Ivkoff’s sculptures engage in a direct dialogue with nature. The materials all derive from nature, even if we have transformed them before they became part of Ivkoff’s art. Materials embody a dialogue with life and the incredible diversity of nature. The drawings she creates using charcoal wash are keys to the sculptures that follows. These expansive interpretations of nature’s beauty, whether in Algonquin Park or the trails and pathways near her home embody a sublime sense of space and integral freedom. The drawing are like a fusion of Franz Kline and Emily Carr. The lines are vital, sometimes nervous and immediate in their response to seeing and being. The charcoal sweeps are made using a chamois cloth across Fabriano paper. They engender a meditative sense of space, but in real life landscapes. These works becomes emblems of unique places in a broader universe we are a part of. Sometimes they hover over into sublime abstraction with rhythmic expressive motion worthy of de Kooning. Then the drawing jumps back into the landscape figuration follow an exact and very real line of a rocky promontory or islet, all in a single work of art. So we have that immediate expressive unmediated drawn line in conjunction with a more intuitive and reflective calming expansion. So two forces come together within a single work of art. Art becomes a celebration of life, pure and simple.  Ivkoff’s charcoal drawings do not describe. Instead these landscapes of self-expression reify the processes of nature through the artist’s bodily gestural act of recreation. Its art as an ontological process like nature’s cycles of infinite change that have a permanence built into them. One is reminded of J. E. H. MacDonald’s Tangled Garden, or of A. Y. Jackson’s rhythmic landscape paintings, but in another time, using a less design conscious style.

Judy Ivkoff intuits what she creates. The artist becomes a medium through which the sensations and experience, the beauty all pass. The morning walks to her studio are a direct source and inspiration for the art that follows. Life in inseparable from art in all this.


Integrative would be a good way of describing Ivkoff’s sculptures. The large scale Forest series recall the Japanese sculptor Shigeo Toya’s forest of trees, all chainsaw but and with paint drippings one could walk through as an environment. Ivkoff’s use of hand tools to create her artworks is endemic to the processes of nature as a living experience she reifies. Whether saws, mallets, chisels, anvils, or hammer, all these tools transform wood into miniature or large-scale presences that layer memory with nature’s environments as events. The Forest series have been cut through at times, or have lines engraved, incised into them, while the edges vary, with direct cuts into them, border shapings, and linear angles. All this is like a way of bringing a range of microcosmic experiences to the surfaces of the sculptures. And these works hang in the balance between abstraction and real life recreation. The variations are like the embroidery of physics, or the variations of depth, of light and dark, we all experience in nature’s endlessly variable continuum.

The Nature series are more like ingenious recombinations of a variety of materials including steel, stone, concrete, glass. There is a collaging and a layering akin to the way we recombine experience to interpret what we have lived. As nature studies they are comparable to epigrams in poetry. Concise they work with a limited range of elements to make a total work of art. Almost like expressive versions of those miniature Zen gardens these sculptures are intensely personal and poetic reifications of the joy of simply being in nature. The Earthbound series set on presentational structures that are part of the art, combine limestone slabs with bronze allegorical elements that build a dialogue between nature and culture, the natural and the manufactured. The way Ivkoff conceives of her process is as someone who accept life as an ongoing state of being. She is aware of the intertwining of nature and the man-made, and of the parallel layering’s of natural and human history. We see this in the smaller scale sculpture series called Fragile Forces where organic looking growth elements are wedged between chiseled limestone rectangles. Visually, Fragile Forces expresses that tentative balance between chaos and order in nature that are part of the radical physics of an ever evolving universe we are a part of. Indeed, Judy Ivkoff’s real talent is in combining seemingly unrelated materials within a single work of art. Whether bronze and limestone, or wood and bronze, or glass with wood, the juxtapositions become metaphors for that exciting interchange between humanity and the world we are all living in.

Judy Ivkoff’s Sightings series of sculptures make us all the more aware of the human desire to compose, to start with a theme, and then to create variations that as a series each visually relate to the next and that which preceded it. There is a depth of conception in these fine sculptures that could be called a kind of unfolding of form in relation to texture. The space unfolds as each cut section and grain works in relation to the next. The exceptional metal pieces within these combines are like breaths of sky or openings, partial views. There is a grace and elegance to these miniature meditations on nature’s sublime, seemingly infinite beauty. These sculptures remind us of how all materials have an intrinsic value, and unique character. Ivkoff brings the wood grain to life, cutting lines onto it, or simply letting it be. The overall compositions require reflection, taking time to consider how all the elements ultimately fit together as an ensemble. And fit they do! These sculptures are ingenious equations for the mystery of life. 


John K. Grande

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  • Forest #11
  • Sightings #45
  • Sightings #22
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  • Sightings #31
  • Forest #20
  • Sightings #38
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  • Sightings #24
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  • Forest #19