Walter Black hosts first solo show

Published 11:00 pm Friday, May 3, 2013

5-4 WALTER USE him_web

Imagine taking the cover of a manhole and blending it with the soft wood of a balsa tree.

Imagine that, and then visualize the art of Walter Black.

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The Troy clay artist is featured in the 2012 TroyFest Best of Show exhibition at the Johnson Center for the Arts in downtown Troy. The exhibition opened May 1 and will run through May 30.

Black won the Best of Show Award at TroyFest 2012 and, with the award, went a solo show at the Johnson Center in May 2013.

The solo exhibition is the first for Black and is a step up the artistic ladder. He took the opportunity to showcase the artwork that brings him the most joy – the art that he can dump his creativity into.

For Black, there are two different worlds of art. Festival art that puts a little jingle in his pocket and the “dark art” that taxes his curiosity and maximizes his creativity.

“Festival art is the more functional art – the smaller pieces – cups, bowls, containers, – pieces that have day to day use,” Black said. “They are the pieces I can make a little money with but I wouldn’t be satisfied just doing that. I also need to do pieces that I can dump my creativity into.”

Black’s curiosity is the impetus for his art.

“What happens when industrial forms mesh with natural elements? When corrugated metal blends into, say, a tree stump,” Black said. “Bio industrial conversion.”

In his solo show, Black has a series of pieces that blend industrial and natural elements. His hope is that the pieces will cause viewers to think that anything is possible – at least in the world of art.

Black has a strong interest in dark matter, which makes up about 40 percent of Old Mother Earth.

“There is a huge amount of unknown elements in the universe,” he said. “There are dangerous things that we don’t understand.

For the solo show, Black created clay pieces – destructive things – that are designed to make viewers “uncomfortable.”

He used powdered red iron oxide and black copper oxide to give the pieces a rusty appearance as if the were the products of a lost civilization.

Three of the pieces are stone shaped and two are installation pieces.

“For these pieces, I molded industrial elements – steel plates, piping, airplane fittings – to create pieces from archeological digs from the future, pieces from the history of the year 3000.”

Black’s idea was to create pieces that would generate curiosity in the viewers.

“Is there life inside the vessel?” he said. “Was something kept alive in there and for what purpose? Can the fittings be used to open the vessel so something inside can be fed or something taken out or put inside? What was its purpose? Was it a destructive thing? Did it have a catastrophic effect on the world?”

The real challenge of the show was a single suspended installation piece.

“The piece was built to the space – to carry the space,” Black said. “The real challenge was how to suspend a fragile piece of clay with 60 pounds of pressure being exerted on the sphere. Eighty percent of the problem was structural issues.”

Black said the original idea was to hide the suspension rods but he realized that the rods gave the sphere the appearance of a land mine on the bottom of the ocean waiting to cause havoc in the place.

“That made the piece appear darker and more dangerous,” he said.

The piece is textured with circular wires that cast shadows from the artificial and natural light in the room, adding to its mystique.

At the top is an airplane fitting that either allows or prevents access to the mystery inside.

Black’s solo show is about Dark Matter. It’s about Dark Curiosity. It’s about putting one’s imagination into high gear and keeping the foot off the brake.