What Hath Rachel Rotenberg Wrought?

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Rachel Rotenberg thinks of her sculptures as stories told with wood. Frequently augmenting the wood with vines, Rotenberg creates an aesthetic world populated by sensually curving surfaces, intriguingly formed negative spaces, and forceful volumes.

The artist begins her process by drawing shapes in a sketchbook. She then builds from those drawings using sticks of cedar lumber. With a variety of machinery—hand and power tools—the wood is cut, glued, clamped and sanded. She then applies stains and colors to the finished pieces.

As abstract as they are, Rotenberg’s sculptures have a classical quality: They achieve humanist textures and contours that overcome their materials. The inviting curvaceousness of the final product belies the intensity of a process that has Rotenberg cutting, gluing, clamping, and sanding.

Though it would be difficult to extract a literal narrative from the pieces, the pieces do suggest the existence of a story beyond the sculptures themselves. It stays just beyond the viewer’s reach as he attempts to understand the inexplicable forms.

Rachel Rotenberg was a 2011 Sondheim Prize finalist. Her sculptures are on exhibition at the BMA until August 7.

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