published Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

'Works by Duncan'

A retrospective exhibition of Isaac Duncan's art is on view at Bessie Smith Cultural Center

By Ann Nichols

Staff Writer

During the past 10 years, Isaac Duncan's sculpture has evolved from social-based investigations to the manipulation of space and form.

An exhibition, showcasing a decade of Duncan's work, is on display at Bessie Smith Cultural Center through Feb. 29. Visitors will not only be able to see completed works by the sculptor but also a process corner or "mini studio" that contains the tools Duncan uses. A poster explaining his process, along with a small DVD player that loops a video interview of the artist, is included in the show, too.

Duncan's process is direct and intuitive.

"I don't draw my sculptures before I make them," he said. "I am always creating in the round -- from thought to actuality."

He begins by laying out various materials and arranging and rearranging them in different compositions. As a successful composition comes together, he grinds and tack-welds each piece before stepping back to observe it from all angles. Satisfied, he fully welds, grinds and brushes away undesirable marks.

Working predominantly with stainless steel or a combination of stainless steel and bronze, Duncan creates abstract sculptures that imply movement. He said that life is movement and that which does not move is not alive. Spheres, angles, voids, balanced and unbalanced elements give his works that feeling of motion -- a feeling that celebrates life.

He cites Marcel DuChamp as an early influence on his work, but points to Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt as his "art father."

"Because of Richard, I started paying more attention to form, process and making works that can withstand the test of time," Duncan explained.

Another influential sculptor in Duncan's career is John Henry, for whom he worked as a crew supervisor, heavy-equipment operator and assistant. From Henry, he learned how to work large scale and what it meant to be a self-made businessman.

Duncan said the pieces in his show touch on the subject of acceptance, community, language and life. He sees his sculptures as vehicles for dialogue -- a place or thing that people can encounter, discuss, interrupt their normal routine or suggest something they haven't thought of before.

In addition to creating art, Duncan is an instructor of sculpture at Chattanooga State Community College and curator of the college's outdoor museum of art. A native of New York, he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame and his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Kentucky.

A reception for "Works by Duncan" will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 28.

Bessie Smith Cultural Center, 200 E. M.L. King Blvd., is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon-4 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $7 adults, $5 seniors/students and $3 children 6-12. For information, call 266-8658.

Email Ann Nichols at annsnichols@aol.com.

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