|Art in America
Martin Kline at Jason McCoy
by Edward Leffingwell
Each of Martin Kline's unique cast stainless-steel sculptures replicates the surface and support of an encaustic painting sacrificed to the casting process. Kline retains the usually recycled scrap of the pour as an armature that supports the sculpture; it rises from a base made of the cup that funnels the molten metal to gates or sprues. Kline retains these functional vestiges as integral parts of the esthetic of a sculpture viewed in the round. He polishes the surface that is the sculpture's primary locus of pictorial interest. Given his preference for highly articulated painting surfaces, the painting-turned-sculpture's center usually thrusts out of the dull gray metal of the cast, sometimes resembling rivulets of water coursing across a pane of glass and other times the petals of a tree fungus.
Among the diverse works on view, several resemble monstrances and suggest an ecclesiastical function. The oval Lao's Mirror (2001), measuring 16 inches on its long axis, is fixed halfway up a 29-inch metal rod retained from the pouring process. Viewed from the pictorial side, the roughly 4-by-3-foot screen of Large Stainless Growth (2000) is composed of funguslike ripples that diminish in horizontal tiers, receding toward the upper edge. Its verso consists of two rods that emerge from cups and divide to form a structure resembling tree branches. The gaping surface of The Great Nipple Wreck of 2000 appears flayed, stripped back to reveal the lost canvas transformed to steel. The sculpture attracts the play of light and shadow.
In a related show of drawings at McCoy's Chelsea space, on view by appointment only, the largest pieces consisted of either black, graphite, indigo or burnt umber oilstick marks of controlled mastery, performed on considerable expanses of linen primed with lead white, installed directly on the wall. At more than 5 by 18 feet, the tour de force Black and White Mural (2003) is figured with marks that spiral out of circular openings in sweeping gestures. The lines of these large-scale works carry over the border and onto the wall. Where the passages of oil stick are applied with special force, the pigment takes on a dense, waxy sheen on the lead-white ground. Elsewhere, passages become more complex, with a subtle, scrolling pattern resembling rubbings from incised stone.
In several works, Kline draws on paper with broken oil stick fragments and shavings, distributing gridlike arrays of glyphs. The vertiginous fireworks of Graphite Oilstick Painting, 10 feet in height, are parent to the more visibly tactile marks of Graphite Oilstick Drawing (both 2004), kin by virtue of the shared medium and their making on-site. In such ways, his work speaks of an unfolding interest in process, attentive to an expressive voice that seems to tell him to use it all.