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Gary Spinosa: Through Forests of Symbols

Friday, September 7 – Saturday, October 27, 2007


Images courtesy of Bruce Gallery Press, Edinboro University. Photographs by Daniel Fox, Lumina Studio.

This exhibition is presented in collaboration with the exhibitions in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Cleveland Institute of Art, From Here to Infinity at the Reinberger Gallery and The Big Bang at SPACES.

The Sculpture Center presents a selection of the mixed media sculptures, highly spiritual in content, of Gary Spinosa, a 1972 Cleveland Institute of Art alumnus and recipient of an MFA from Edinboro University (1986). Spinosa’s work was exhibited often in Cleveland in the 1970s and 1980s, but has not been seen here since his move to a farm in Pennsylvania. On exhibition will be large sculptures and smaller work, some available for sale.

A clay bull’s head, with large, gentle human eyes and adorned with a headdress like a Venetian Doge’s with side panels and a hard dome that contains a small gilded niche, is mounted, deity-like, on two chest-high metal banded tree trunks; every surface is exquisitely painted with a subtle, yet colorful palette. A diminutive, abstracted figure with a porcelain bird’s head, metallic breasts, and outstretched little metal horns, wrapped tightly in narrow strips of coarse fabric saturated with a dark asphalt-like medium and bound with a fine fabric tape painted red, lies on a pedestal. A leaf shaped, upright form embraces a small male nude; the surface is so perfectly over-painted that you cannot tell if it is bronze or clay. A huge, wooden block, stupe-like structure with a series of shrines that are guarded by clay birds of an indeterminate species fills one end of the gallery. Small “stones” with amazingly smooth and alluringly pearlescent colored surfaces, shaped into animistic forms by the manipulation of pigmented porcelain clay by the fingers, thumbs, and balls of the artist’s hands, are arranged on another pedestal. Many of the larger pieces have exquisite applied decorations that close examination reveals are made from such unlikely materials as shotgun shell casings, tin can lids, the tops of little bells, and plastic electrical insulators.

Every sculpture suggests archaic forms and universal perceptions residing within each of us. They lead us into a visionary world where everyday materials have been transformed into magical artworks and where each sculpture becomes a symbol for emotions far deeper than we normally feel, a healing belief structure into which we have yet to be initiated, and a profound understanding that is just eluding us.

The intensely spiritual artwork of Gary Spinosa is an anomaly in the secular world of most contemporary Western art. His sculpture seems to arise from three strands of inspiration: the archetypal forms and religious rituals of ancient and diverse cultures from the African continent and some Asian countries – select animal heads presented on altar-like bases, complete birds and their heads, mummy-like shapes, faces enshrouded or encased by various materials, and shrines and tabernacles containing seemingly precious, but unidentifiable animals; a deeply held Christian religious faith - the haloed head and the crucified body of Christ; and an intuitive and spontaneous response to the natural world – innumerable fantastical animal shapes, often piled one atop another, and male and female nudes emerging from organic forms.

Every piece is made with a fanatical attention to exactness of outline, detail, and surface quality. Spinosa has perfected an astonishing array of highly personal fabrication techniques with fabric, common and porcelain clay, wood, and paint that defy conventional explanations and has created finishes that make it nearly impossible to determine by sight alone whether a piece is made of clay, wood, or metal. The work, whether grand constructions twelve feet high or hand sized “stones,” is imbued with a stillness, a gentleness, a mystery, an evocation of an inexplicable force, and an animism.
The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensively illustrated catalogue produced for a recent retrospective at Edinboro University. Gary Spinosa: The Philosopher’s Stone is available for sale at The Sculpture Center for $29.95 or by mail order for $38.00 with packing and shipping.

Gary Spinosa Exhibition Checklist (pdf)


Cleveland Sun, A Citywide New Weather Group Installation, 2007
Conceptual image of the Euclid Avenue Gallery
Image courtesy of the New Weather Group

This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Studio Techne Architects.

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For more information call 216.229.6527 or go to info@sculpturecenter.org.  

The Sculpture Center is a not-for-profit arts institution dedicated to the advancement of the careers of emerging Ohio sculptors and the preservation of Ohio outdoor sculpture as a means to provide support for artists and to effect the enrichment, education, enjoyment, and visual enhancement of the Cleveland community and greater region.

The Sculpture Center is generously supported by an anonymous donor and other private donors and funding from the Bernice and David E. Davis Arts Foundation, the Kulas Foundation, the John P. Murphy Foundation, and the Ohio Arts Council.

Gallery hours: Wednesday through Friday, 10 AM to 4 pm, Saturday 12 noon to 4 pm or by prior appointment (Free Parking, Handicapped accessible)