Jonathan Hertzel: The Gathering
James a Michener art museum April 2 through June 26, 2005
There's a simple question that's often the starting point when one looks at a work of art, especially if the work is leaning towards abstraction: What is it? For sculptor Jonathan Hertzel the answer to this question is never entirely clear. Is it a tree? Is it a tornado? Is it a convoluted strand of random DNA? Is it a woman arms outstretched dancing with the wind? Is it real at all or could it be a creature from a Tolkien novel or perhaps one of those mythical figures from the mind of the Roman writer Ovid, who love to turn people into trees, trunks, and animals?
For Hertzel the answer is yes—all of the above. And maybe that's the message of his work, to the extent that art ever has a message. Hertzel’s sculptures tell us that all those names labels in categories that we use to codify and classify the world or misleading. If we could see the universe for what it really is, we would see more unity, then division. We would see a gathering of dynamic forces rather than a static collection of unrelated ideas. The universe is above all alive, growing—in a constant state of flux. But like Hertzel sculptures that growth is focused, centered—emerging from a single point, the hub around which everything revolves. As he says, “I want my figures to evoke a sense of perpetual change, expressing the energy that propels and guides us—an essence of an underlying hidden order.”
Brian H. Peterson, senior curator, James a Michener art museum.