Steven Montgomery

By Cynthia Nadelman
ARTnews, June 2004

Steven Montgomery's bravura ceramic sculptures simulate the remains of structures built in an industrial and mechanical age. They also simulate trompe l'oeil. For though they may look like replicas of things made out of another material, they are actually inventions. What appears to be the remnant of a door to an immense walk-in safe, in Re-Entrance #2 (2004), is an excuse to demonstrate a marvelous facility to paint and to sculpt ceramic. Still-shiny chromium-glazed hinges and handles were almost gaudy in this show's context of ruin. Elsewhere, his painting and glazing beautifully evoked rust and verdigris, grime, disintegration, and disuse. Remains of yellow-and-black or red-and-white stripes bespoke danger and the presence of hazardous materials. Most of the works were hung on the wall or leaned against it. Deep press molds created high relief to the extent that one could look into dark recesses full of defunct-looking circuitry or other once-functional elements. Lopped-off areas of porous ceramic looked deceptively like the result of metal fatigue. One series of sculptures, "Artifacts," scattered on the floor, represented different types of outsize nuts and bolts.

Montgomery makes new objects that look like things that have come to the end of their line, individually and collectively. There is a gothic quality, a spooky creation of a myth of once-used machinery that gives the work its poetry. Strong, yet flawed and subject to breakage, Montgomery's ceramic-cum-metal sculptures manage to lodge in the heart.