Werner Bargsten

Back to Square One — Breaking Patterns by Entering Into Them
                                                                                                       By Vanessa Garcia    2013


One of the biggest clichés about artists is that they live “outside the box.” Interestingly,  Back to Square One, an exhibition at Ward-Nasse Gallery in SoHo (178 Prince Street), curated by Tchera Niyego and organized by Basak Malone LLC, asks artists to step back inside the box. Specifically, the square. The square of the canvas, the photograph, and the bound sculpture.

This last category — bound sculpture — is particular to one of the show’s artists, Werner Bargsten, whose clay, polyurethane, and copper sculptures attempt to contain matter as well as what matters. What we see in his pieces are a kind of three dimensional painting through sculpture, a world hung upon a flat surface, attempting to break that surface. But this is not an open window into the world, rather a shuttered one — one draped in black and gray. As if what is within is closed and secreted from view, like a widower’s estate holding covered furniture, holding lives, stories, love, ages, and mourning.

One of Bargsten’s Untitled pieces is black and bound in copper –  a plot of soil divided in four. A simple piece which draws us into a world of associations – feudalism, slavery, the toil of land and subsistence; factory farming. Armor and amour — open heart surgery. This piece speaks worlds because it is so bound.  So forced to live inside the “square.” Others of his pieces attempt to break free of their wrapping, morphing into shapes outside the square — scalene rectangles, and shapes, where the square seemingly swallows its copper bindings. When asked to explain his work, Bargsten prefers to allow the work to do the talking — which it does — but he also says that if he had to say something, he might say it is about “time slipping through my fingers.”