"Scorch and Drag" at Flatbed Gallery

John Robert Craft's objects and prints, combined with the viewer's eye, creates a chamber of reverberating visions

Switch Back by John Robert Craft

John Robert Craft's Giant Point Bar 840# is a massive beam laid across the floor. If you are not careful, you might trip over it. The beam appears solid enough that it would not move without a serious jolt. It is cut with geometric shapes, pyramids mostly, like a piece of Aztec architecture. It is odd how something so heavy could also look so incidental, as if someone has dropped it here.

Giant Point Bar 840# is the most extreme of Craft's sculptures on display in "Scorch and Drag," because it is the largest, but in terms of presence, each piece has an equal weight. 2 United Point Bar 50# is much smaller, but it has the same shape: long and marked with repeated pyramids. It looks like it could be used for bludgeoning, a notion emphasized by the piece's metallic neatness. This is a tool for using. It amply satisfies its small moment, stable and symmetrical, as though it has always existed just as it is.

Slice Sphere 28# (1-4) and Geomorph (1-2) are cast-iron balls that have been sliced and reconfigured into amorphous blobs. They are objects without origin, like relics from an abandoned field in the Hill Country, a place where an ancient farm once stood or a slave civilization. This quality lies in their formlessness, their rust-red color and angry texture. These are things from the basement of a rural antique shop, back corner, bottom shelf, where the lightbulb has gone out. They are whatever remains. It is rare to find contemporary work that is so timeless and yet still modern.

In addition to the conversation between past and present, the work also functions in dual dimensions. Multiple prints have been made with the sculptures, resulting in an impressive variety of 2-D patterns. Aside from the Pastoral Process series, which conveniently displays the prints with the sculpture that made them, it was difficult for me to place the print with its corresponding object. At first, I thought this was an unfortunate oversight, but given further consideration, I'm grateful. Switch Back is a large, black woodcut print scratched with dramatic white curves that echo one another like a yin-and-yang symbol. The execution is dynamic and swift. I have no way of knowing for sure which, if any, of the objects on display made the piece, and I'm okay with this. The show doesn't need a novel question-and-answer format, as though we were visiting a science museum. The point being made here is more sophisticated than that. Switch Back has its own life. Its streaks are wounds scratched into the night by monsters or the last light in a darkening sky. This is compelling enough.

A print on paper takes up space in as real a way as the massive beam called Giant Point Bar 840# does. The give and take of this process is a conundrum. Is the print only a footprint of the real piece (the object), or is the object only a tool, a means to an end? Despite the fact that Craft's pieces can, and do, stand alone, the prints and the objects speak to each other, or at least speak at the same time. The beam impresses upon the printworks the same way it impresses upon the eye. In this sense, the viewer is the third element here, combining with the prints and the objects to form a never-ending cycle of witness. The result is a chamber of reverberating visions – one that can only be entered by looking.

"Scorch and Drag: Prints and Sculptures by John Robert Craft"

Flatbed Press & Gallery, 2832 E. MLK, 512/477-9328
Through Aug. 27

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Flatbed Press & Gallery
“Mayhem, Method & Medium: Mike O’Brien” at Flatbed
Sculptures of striped tubes take on an uncanny life when photographed and reprinted by the artist

Sam Anderson-Ramos, Dec. 2, 2016

More Arts Reviews
Review: Gilbert & Sullivan Austin's <i>The McAdo</i>
Review: Gilbert & Sullivan Austin’s The McAdo
Spry rewrite of the classic operetta swaps kimonos for kilts

Bob Abelman, June 17, 2022

Ronnie Earle, Gangbuster
Ronnie Earle, Gangbuster
Jesse Sublett revisits Austin’s criminal past in Last Gangster in Austin

Jay Trachtenberg, June 10, 2022

More by Sam Anderson-Ramos
“Pio Pulido: The Last Exhibit of the 20th Century” at the MACC
This retrospective is like visiting an artist's crowded studio and yet provides just a glimpse of this visionary's output

Sept. 1, 2017

“Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler: Giant” at the Blanton Museum of Art
“Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler: Giant” at the Blanton Museum of Art
The film is good at showing the fate of the film set of Giant, but it leaves open the question of what's happened to Marfa

Aug. 25, 2017


Flatbed Press & Gallery, John Robert Craft

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle