Sculpture by David Hayes. The New Known


El Nuevo Herald
Sun, May. 09, 2004

Translated by Pam MacFadden

Hardly anyone associates a sheet of steel with a work of art. David Hayes is among the exceptions.

Hayes draws in his notebook the things that impress him in his daily life and from this archive of images he chooses the forms he will then shape from the sheets of steel he works with. His pieces are made of various parts joined to one another by nuts and bolts that have an industrial echo, but the combination is always a triumph of artistry.

Born in Connecticut in 1931, Hayes has dedicated half a century to his art and a good part of that time to this type of sculpture. Now the north campus of FIU is showing 13 of his works dating from 1976 to 2000. They have been placed in parks and passageways between various buildings and to see them all it is well to start your tour in front of the library.

The shapes given by the sculptor to the sheets that make up each of the works are of an overwhelming simplicity. The artist’s son and curator of the FIU exhibit, David M Hayes, says that it could be no other way considering that they were made to be installed  in open spaces; in contact with nature, “ and nature doesn’t need superfluous lines to be sophisticated”.

Perhaps it is from this that one can grasp the key to Hayes success as a sculptor. It isn’t that his works fade into the background and one passes them without notice – they are original. Nor do they attract too much attention in the context of the public space. It is more like a point between these two extremes- as if their presence fill an, until then, unrealized empty space that only the artist could discover. One of them Arcwing, (2000) installed in a corner next to a building entrance door is so much a part of the space that it makes the space its own – as if the architect had the piece in mind when the campus was designed. One’s view encounters this piece and the others and is detained by interest peeked – not because it was obliged or because one had to make a special effort.

The works are in both color and black. The former have a more playful spirit – a call to participate in a game already in progress. The latter, for obvious reasons, are more reserved but never solemn. The best use of profuse color is found in the 2 circular pieces mounted on walls: Small Black Round Relief (1998) and Circular Relief. In the one it is clear that birds and breezes are evoked; the second is perhaps a new type of puzzle whose structure changes with every new look. Far from distracting, both pieces enhance the decorative zeal as they function in defiance of this context and definitely leave a feeling of complicity. All this despite what the title suggests.

Painted in black, the 4 sculptures that form the group in the most receded area of the exhibit (part of the Vertical Motif ) prove that one can not demand a minimum of color. There will be as many interpretations of their starkness as there are viewers willing to approach and see, but surely many will agree that the four sculptures, along with the other 7 change the feel of the space as one’s pulse races when taking a woman’s hand.

Although we tend to underestimate it, environmental (outdoor) design is one of the most important things in the life of a city. The beauty and ugliness of the entorno have to do with questions of esthetic pleasure as well as physical states of being. In Swan (1998) for example the combination of yellow  and black avoids all traditional conventions and provides an experience of new latitude: that of an encounter with a known object that we see for the first time.

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