“Globe: Gray, Black, Buff White,” 2022. 70x70x 70in, Acrylic, Aluminum Composite, Rivets and D Rings (from the artist)
“Equidistant – A Personal Rendition” at Gallery Bogart features 11 sculptures by Cesar Lopez. Made from aluminum strips, rivets and paint, the minimalist sculptures build on a repeating form and explore different possibilities of their arrangement to form loops and spheres. Born in Guatemala, Lopez is a Kansas City Art Institute graduate and uses these shapes to reflect on his journey along the curved surface of the earth.
Describing these shapes in words isn’t particularly easy, which is a good thing when it comes to minimalist sculpture — these aren’t shapes we see very often. The smallest sculptures, each about 3 feet long, are described as “Structural Couplings.” These are the base unit that make up the larger pieces. Three aluminum strips are joined edge to edge to create triangular beams, but the strips all bend away from each other in perfect curves at their ends, joining with more curved strips.
Combining five of these couplings, you get a sculpture like “Structural Ring: Black,” a five-sided shape painted in a soft matte black finish. The vertices where the segments join are empty, creating an interesting negative shape and allowing one to easily look down the interiors of the tubes. There is great attention to detail in the placement of the rivets, the treatment of the matte surface and its millimeter-thin shiny edges. Combine these rings side to side, and they form a perfect 12-sided dodecahedron, like the sculpture “Globe: Grey, Black, Buff White” which takes a central position in the gallery.
The structures are perfectly symmetrical, the modular system could extend endlessly in repeating patterns of lines, pentagons, dodecagons and their curving vertices. But Lopez has chosen these particular shapes, patterns and colors, and despite the seemingly neutral titles, has chosen a specific set of words to describe these shapes: couplings, distances, rings and globes. One sculpture, “Structural Distance: Grey, Black, Buff White” has its paint segmented in a repeating pattern of black and white, much like the black and white linear scales found on maps.
Today, minimalism is far from its 1960s origins as a radical anti-art gesture. It has become an accepted artistic genre just like opera or comic books or landscape painting. The questions we ask are no longer “is this art?” but rather “what makes this different from the rest of its genre?” Lopez has combined these unique shapes with his unique language to build metaphors about physical distance around the globe.
The show’s title “Equidistant – A Personal Rendition” has several meanings. The vertices of the couplings are empty, the strips bend in perfect curves away from the places they would intersect. If one imagines these beams as lines of travel on a map, then you’d never arrive at your destination, being forced to bend away from it at the last moments, like being shunted away from the center of a cloverleaf highway interchange. “Personal Rendition” has two meanings, both the mundane sense of the artist’s personal style of minimalism, but also the legal meaning of rendition as migrants crossing borders (or the government euphemism of “extraordinary rendition” to describe state-sponsored kidnapping).
The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line, but of course in reality it’s rare that any journey is an unbending line. Even the straight lines of longitude and latitude bend around the curved surface of the world. And while we often think of our journeys as having beginnings and ends, these travels often bend around back on themselves and have no clear start and termination points.
Or is this all over-thinking a few words in the titles of geometric sculptures? Should we just appreciate the mathematical beauty and purity of these designs? That is the challenge of minimalism today, to find both pleasure and satisfaction in the creation of geometry, but also find compelling context and meaning for each sculpture. In “Equidistant – A Personal Rendition,” Cesar Lopez has achieved both.
“Cesar Lopez: Equidistant – A Personal Rendition” continues through March 31 at Gallery Bogart, 1400 Union Ave. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and by appointment Monday through Friday. For more information, 816.739.8571 or gallerybogart.com.