Exhibition of recent sculpture by Lewis Iselin

This exhibition, Iselin’s fifth one-man show in New York City, takes place from November 7th through November 25th at the Richard K. Larcada Gallery at 23 East 67th Street. Consisting of about twenty pieces in bronze, and some in wax, all life size, they are portraits and figures. They make use of negative space and are held up by interior armatures made possible by the invention of synthetic wax invented by sculptor Calvin Albert. The result is a skeletal look. Why this look? Iselin says: “Because it is truly elegant. Why literally model curls and drapery when they are only superfluous?” Because of a new synthetic waxthat is strong enough to withstand modeling into strips and lattices, Iselin can achieve lightness and grace without monumentality. Iselin believes that handsome as much sculpture looks outdoors, there is more demand for what will go elegantly into indoor settings.

In the present show one example is the portrait of Mary Ellin Barrett, daughter of Irving Berlin and a well-known author in her own right. Only her nose and cheekbones and chin show in a tangible fashion. By manipulating space Iselin shows her as she is. The eyes, the hair, and the rest of her physiognomy are there even if they are not there.

The same is true, only more so, in the four large figures. The life-size seated woman holding her arms around her knees is truly thinking. The use of negative space augments the character and feeling in the large.

As for the medium, Iselln says that, because of the rubbery flexibility of the wax, he can use drawing techniques as well as sculptural. These forms oould not have been made were if it were not for the inventionof this particular micro-crystallin wax. What he does is heat the wax in an electric frying pan until it is the right tepid manipulable temperature. It is possible to retain his original modeling when it is cast into bronze, which is the final medium. After the casting, Iselin does the chasing and patining himself, a laborious process which is satisfactory because it means that it is all his work. Time spent on each object is about the same as it took to do sculpture the old-fashioned way. In this [1967] show the color of the patina is a golden two-toned brown, much the same as the wax.

This technique is one that Iselin has been searching for and perfecting since his first show at the Maynard Walker Gallery in March1953. Light and shade, a two-toned patina, was, and is, his objective. Art Newsspotted then this sense of immediacy, despite his not havingthe advantage of his current technique, when the reviewer observed how in "a number of bronze portrait heads... the play of light and shade is used as an efficient device for recording fleeting facial expression.”

It was in his second show in 1956 that Iselin did thefirst open-work sculpture from which stems today's [1967] show. The New York Times reviewer said: “The challenge of modern sculpture is successfully taken up by Lewis Iselin in his current show at the Maynard Walker Gallery. There the organic aspect of his human heads and figures is interpreted with shredded form opposed to the conventional solid... It lends to mask-like faces and easily draped figures a mystery and textual interest which are not usually inherent in recognized forms of sculpture.”
. . .

In 1965 Iselin had his [fourth one-artist] show, at the Richard K. Larcada Gallery. [He] included precursors of his present work in wax, which suffered only because the synthetic type had not been perfected. Arts magazine said: "The most interesting feature in this exhibit of bronze heads, torsos, and figures is the excellence of the casting process itself, particularly because of the way Iselin works. He builds up his wax models in thumb-sized dabs, leaving spaces inbetween. The irregularity of the sculpture makesthe job of casting an especially intricateone, but the open spaces lend enormous vitality to the bronze versions of Iselin’s figures. Air travels freely through the openings and they seem to breathe with life.”
. . . .