"Shrine of Inevitable Forces"

This exhibition in an abandoned church shows how time and pressure can reshape objects into rich new forms

Shrine of Inevitable Forces

108 W. Gibson. Through June 9

The story of a diamond is the story of humble matter being forged into something of beauty and worth by the forces of pressure and time. It's the story, too, of "Shrine of Inevitable Forces," an exhibition of artwork by Colin McIntyre and, well, nature. McIntyre is represented by two kinds of sculpture: the silvery, sinuous, seaweedlike forms of his Organism Series and the Hexobelisks – pointed pillars with curled, crumpled edges – both of which he's formed by applying extreme pressure to basic blocks of steel. But he is also showing warped sections of flooring that he recovered from an industrial warehouse that was abandoned and left to the elements. Many decades of slow exposure to water caused the tongue-and-groove maple planks to bend and arc in sections that mimic the swells of an ocean. Looking at the 50-foot length of it that McIntyre has made the centerpiece of this site-specific installation, one becomes conscious of, first, the great expanse of time involved in nature's reshaping of this man-made structure and, second, how this random elemental process has made this flooring more beautiful and remarkable than it ever was in its original, functional state. It evokes tinges of wonder at those forces far beyond our own.

McIntyre accomplishes something similar with his own work through the powerful hydraulic hammer blows and pressure he uses in it. He leaves enough of his hexagonal steel tubes intact for us to see the sharp-edged form as their natural state, making the crumpled areas seem the result of primal, perhaps even primeval forces. And, as with the wavelike wooden flooring, the curves and loops of the squashed metal suggest a more pliable, softer condition – in this case, they have the sensuality of flesh. Seen from certain angles, they even appear as lips, chins, noses embedded in the steel. In the tallest of the Hexobelisks, these evocations of faces call to mind Native American totem poles, which heightens our sense of connection in these works with ancient times and powers. That McIntyre has placed these transfigured objects in a former church grants them an air, too, of the sacred, of being deeply linked to our world's fundamental forces.

There's also something poetic in McIntyre having rescued this abandoned church sanctuary from disrepair in order to showcase the remnants of another abandoned building from many miles away. It infuses this enterprise with a sense of continuity, a circle of recovery in which we may see new beauty and value in what nature has transformed.

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Colin McIntyre, metal sculpture, art installations

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