Sculpture With the Dazzle of Fireworks


The New York Times


In the New Jersey State Museum, a somewhat worn but highly ornate carpet lies on top of the main electrical cord that powers the recent sculptures of Clyde Lynds. The carpet doesn't quite mask the utilitarian cord, but having it there proves to be an effective metaphor for Mr. Lynds's objectives.

He has long pursued an art that bridges the latest developments in technology and high esthetic refinement. His pursuit seems single-minded: the new sculptures currently on view differ little in their essential configurations from pieces done a decade ago. Mr. Lynds's basic form and model is the stele, the tall and slender stone slab that is the form of monuments from the ancient world. The artist uses concrete, a material more malleable than stone.

The material allows for porousness, which is necessary because the sculptures are completed by beads of light that shine through the surface. The light is the nuts-and-bolts science part: it comes from fiber optics. Inside these steles, light pulses through transparent fibers.

Ordinary viewers don't know the exact workings of this, nor do they need to. The artful steles rest on metal bases that house the works, which, according to Mr. Lynds, are a light bulb and two superimposed disks of color that revolve at different speeds. The light shining through these disks is sent up to the network of filaments in the sculpture.

Any urge to ask further questions about the mechanics is muffled by the resulting art, which unfolds kaleidoscopically. What distinguishes these recent pieces from their antecedents is the complexity of the patterns that change through time .

In her catalogue essay, Eleanor Heartney, a New York critic, reminds the viewer of how radical Mr. Lynds', accomplishment is: painting and sculpture are classified as arts that deal with space, while music incorporates time. But the viewer is mesmerized for a long time watching Mr. Lynds's patterns reveal themselves on the rigorously static sculptures, which thrust aggressively into the air. In short, Mr. Lynds has made sculpture that works like music.

When the concept was in its infancy, he was satisfied with merely drawing lines with his

fiber optics; it was enough to see a slender line snake up a stele. Now, the viewer is treated to displays that can be compared to dazzling firework shows.


But above and beyond these contained pyrotechnics, Mr. Lynds also displays real keenness of thought: one of the steles features a Star of David that changes into a more elaborate Islamic star, which then becomes a Christian cross.

The static relief surfaces are important, too, even though they are deliberately in the shadows. A frequent decoration is spiny plant forms, and Mr. Lynds says it is important to him that his works contain an organic element with which his geometric light patterns can contrast.

The impetus for the new complexity was not a scientist's urge to experiment further, but a trip to the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, where Mr. Lynds visited a recently opened tomb and was bedazzled by what he calls the "mineral palette," the elaborate use of stones like natural turquoise. He wanted this effect in his work. But he is also quick to point out that many of his patterns are also prominent on Amish quilts, and the injection of something homey and familiar is bracing.

Mr. Lynds has defined himself as a sculptor up to now, but it is obvious that the new works succeed because he has also become a painter. The color that he achieves through his technological means is very rich, and he reveals that it is achieved through blending. He has digested the influential color theory of Josef Albers.

The dozen steles positioned at the edge of the darkened room make a dignified and stately display of uprightness. One of the more subtle pleasures the show affords is the variety of configurations of the sculptures' tops, ranging from angular to rounded.

But the exhibition is titled "Buddha's Seat," and sculpture also bear ing this name is distinctly different from the others. It is a horizontal bench that might conceivably be sat on, though one would then miss the play of the light pattern. Such a bench might be found in an Asian rock garden, and it is a reminder that Mr. Lynds has made work that can induce a meditative state.

Most of the heralded attempts to create a religious mood in the 20th century fall short because the sentiments seem forced. Mr. Lynds has not intended to create his version of the Rothko Chapel in Houston, say, but his real achievement is that he has perfected his art to a point where such ideals as the intermeshing of major faiths can enter freely like whispers.