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Art Devoured by the Elements

Roy Staab explores ‘Nature in Three Parts’ at Villa Terrace

Sep. 6, 2016
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Nature can be unruly, but in the hands of artist Roy Staab, earthy materials become the stuff from which neat geometries are made. They take the form of spirals, polygons, even footprints formed in along a shore. Staab’s work is expanded in the exhibition “Nature in Three Parts,” on view now at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum.

The notion of three parts comes from subsidiary exhibitions. Staab’s work is presented by photographs of his sculptural installations around the world, created with organic and natural materials. A sculpture commissioned by the Villa Terrace, Shadow Dance, waits for the visitor at the bottom of the sloping gardens leading to Lake Michigan. Compatible forms are found in a selection of baskets from the collection of Jan Serr and John Shannon, selected by Staab.

The photographs in “Suspended in Time” focus on Staab’s work internationally through large photographs that document his installations in places from India to America. Natural, native materials are used for ephemeral sculptures that are eventually devoured by the elements. Sometimes his pieces are extremely fragile, like imprints along shorelines that disappear with the tides. The installation of photographs is augmented by a video that adds to the vicarious experience of these works, but for the real deal, head to the bottom of the garden.

Shadow Dance is a beautiful and deceptive piece. From the terraces, it appears as a series of smoothly intertwined circles. Do not let yourself be deceived by not taking advantage of walking down to view the sculpture in person. What appears to be static lines are multiple levels and an intricacy only seen up close. 

The third part of the exhibition comes in the form of baskets from the Serr and Shannon collection, curated by Staab. He has chosen pieces that accent his ethos in the way that baskets are not solid vessels but instead their traditional forms open into endless spirals and disengaged parameters. They retain a connection to tradition and history, but even in this historic museum, a presence that is very contemporary, echoing the hands of Staab in his interventions in nature.


Through Sept. 18 at Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, 2220 N. Terrace Ave. 


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