February 5 August 5, 1996
Prudential Center, Boston
David Hayes' Screen sculptures have occupied him intermittently since the middle 1970s, and in developing this genre of sculpture, he has exploited the ambiguities that the idea of a screen implies. Some of the sculptures work best against a wall that reinforces the two-dimensional nature of the screen; others stand out three-dimensionally, independent of a ground but in their mass literally screening out the view beyond. What both types share is a self-contained completeness. What they block from view, whether a wall or a vista is of no particular importance, only the sculpture is significant. One does not care what lies behind because the "screen" is not a door to anything else, only to itself.
Complementing this idea of the self-contained work, the screen sculptures tend to turn inward and remain spatially discreet. In spite of their broken outline, the sculpture does not so much project into the surrounding space as pull space into it. The interplay of solid and void creates a rhythm of ascending and descending lights and darks, open and closed shapes. These spaces within the work give the whole transparency, and the changing light of the times of day or seasons of the year alters the shadows cast within the work. Because visual flux is inherent in the screen sculpture, the sculpture might seem to recreate itself over time. The patterns are never static because the harness of the solids is continually neutralized by the malleable voids and eroding light. This quality imparts a fragility to the sculpture; a sensation of tumbling shapes arrested for an instant, their edges haphazardly touching, like leaves falling on the wind.
Are these works complex? Certainly as all aesthetically satisfying objects are. But they are also immediately engaging as formal, visual issues of shape, space, light, and composition. They are abstract but tangible; multifaceted but limpid. They have no commentary but their art.
Thomas P. Bruhn
The William Benton Museum of Art
University of Connecticut