Boot Jack, oil on walnut and dossie wood
Liftoff, wood and glass
The work of Bill Keyser unites the skills of a consummate craftsman with the aesthetic sensibilities of a fine artist. Professor Emeritus in the School for American Crafts at Rochester Institute of Technology, Bill holds M.F.A.'s both in Furniture Design and in Painting and Sculpture. In the words of the artist, "I make functional furniture, sculpture, and paintings. I'm interested in exploiting the interfaces, influences, and opportunities for cross-fertilization among three genres." Bill's sculptures always surprise us in the freedom with which the artist blends seemingly disparate materials, including glass, paper, metal, and wood, into flowing and unified shapes. By the artist's own admission, he sometimes finds his inspiration, as well as his media, in the "leftovers," the "unintentional thing that remains" after completion of another project. He exhibits a similar freedom in his treatment of surfaces. As our eye journeys along the grain of a finely polished piece of wood, we turn a corner and find ourselves in a land of paint. The implied metaphor here is not inappropriate, as the artist readily admits that he often perceives each piece as a journey into a diminutive land of curves, slopes, and angles.
"Much of my sculpture is small in size. I don't consider them maquettes for larger pieces. But when I'm working on them, I imagine them huge, and view them as though I'm a Lilliputian, standing next to them and looking up, or walking under and around them."
As we wander along the contours of one Bill's sculptures, we become acutely aware not only of the forms themselves, but of the spaces they create – the "negative" spaces – and of the places upon which they rest. To Keyser, the spaces and places around the sculpture are a fundamental part of the work itself.
"I concentrate on how the piece meets the horizontal, be it the ground or a pedestal; whether it relaxes and plumps itself down, or dances gracefully on its tippy-toes. I focus a lot on the space underneath."
In "Pretzel," shown here, the physical 'referent' is not a place, real or hypothetical, nor a commonplace object. It is another work of art. Pretzel was inspired by Tony Smith's sculpture Playground in the collection of Rochester's Memorial Art Gallery. Keyser explains: "I simply tried to continue the journey of Smith's piece by wrapping it around itself. Poising the piece on three corners further abstracted the original, maximized the dynamics of the work, and freed it from the pedestal. The title, 'Pretzel', is indicative of the wrapping process and also pays homage to Smith's use of one-word, suggestive titles."
Elysium's Daughter, wood and paint
Fooling Around With Red, red oak and milk paint
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