Winifred Lutz at Zabriskie
Art in America
November 01, 2007
Winifred Lutz is known for her work in natural or mundane materials such as wood, stones, vines, concrete and especially handmade paper. The Philadelphia-based artist has made complex and large-scale installations, yet the tiny to modest-size sculptures in this show did not feel constrained to suit the space. Each seemed, rather, to be a purification, to consist of a simple pairing or a single sequence of subtle effects. Lutz employs paper in a variety of guises; it might serve as a rough hull, a translucent veil or a delicate accretion. Here, as usual, her palette emphasized grays, tans and browns, with an occasional mottled ocher looking almost fluorescent in comparison.
One of the 16 works in the show was a diminutive rectangle of glassine paper, collaged with a tiny oval of Arches paper, graphite and a minuscule bone-like white fragment identified in the title as a clam hinge. The glassine fluttered an inch from the wall on pins, its rustling as delicate as the shell shard (Untitled [gray oval with clam hinge], 2006). In other works, paper suggests a drumhead as it is stretched taut across a cupped form (Untitled [withered oval with aperture], 2004), or it recalls a dried leaf or driftwood—Lutz casts paper as well as working with sheets.
Her twisted or angled tree branches, such as Untitled (signs of wear and collaboration), 2007, may bring to mind the wooden limbs of ceramic animals by Daisy Youngblood, but Lutz’s sculptures are always abstract, with at most a passing feeling of body or shell. She tends to play a natural irregularity against such opposites as smooth planes or lines in tension. In this wall-mounted piece, an irregular sheet of unbleached raw flax paper is crinkled into a hollow shape that looks a little waxy; near it a bent tree branch ends at the bottom with a clump of wasp-made paper, creating a sort of question mark.
Paper and nature allusions are almost clichés nowadays. Lutz escapes the conventional and the romantic through reductiveness. She seems never to do more than the minimum necessary to create an appearance, a mood, an effect, a relationship. One might think there would be a similarity to Japanese taste, but her work is never so perfected or so clean and crisp as ikebana or other Japanese compositional arts. Rather, one imagines that she finds the parts in the woods or on the curb; the segments seem to have grown into each other, the combination an accident more than an act of will.
Lutz’s work is in sympathy with nature-based work by Hamish Fulton, David Nash, Andy Goldsworthy, Nils Udo (among European men) and Michael Singer or Patricia Johansen among American artists, although she has found her own place. These artists all date from the ‘70s and the first era of ecological concerns. Younger artists with eco ideas are more apt to use their materials to make statements. Lutz works sotto voce. Her message is intuited in her method.