RON FONDAW: ARCHEOLOGY

Archeology — the process of scraping away layers of earth to find some artifact within — acts as a potent metaphor in Ron Fondaw's current exhibition.

Using materials and processes that often have primal, ancient origins, he wrestles with converging aspects of time in his own life — past, present, future, and, finally, the absence of time.

For this exhibit, Fondaw has divided the gallery into two contrasting spaces. In the first room, eveeryday objects, recognizable images and the visible manipulation of materials are present, signifying the odd union of physical. mental and spiritual life. In the second room, the work of the hand is absent; a minimal representation of materials is presented within a disorienting environment where time and its degenerating effects are absent.

The phenomenon of memory takes precedence in Fondaw's recent work. memory is perhaps the most elusive act of consciousness. In dreams and waking hours, memory makes and remakes itself, merging facts and fictions. It scuttles beneath the surface, present in our minds but as a fragile glimes of a specific time event.

Fondaw likens the act of remembering to an archeological process. Memories — both personal and collective — give evidence of life, even as they are intangible and transmuted by the present. They surface like objects from bygone civilizations under the archeologist's knife, in fragments, laden with questions and clues about who we are and where we have been.

Recognizable images and everyday objects can be found throughout Fondaw's work, but they are obscured, transformed, broken and rearranged.

Plates, pieces of furniture, rocks and tools become the clues and artifacts of a life. Buried beneath layers of clay, painted upon, fired in kilns, pressed between layers of glass, these ordinary things become symbols for memory and identity.

In "Aunt Verna's Lamp" and "Aladdin," Fondaw chooses objects that are almost trivial or kitsch — a ceramic cast swan that one could find at a garage sale; delicate, frilly pieces of 1950's bone China. They are incidental pieces that he associates with his childhood; things he might have found in his grandmother's cupboard, which reflect his notion that it is "often the small things that happen to us along the way" that shape who we are.

By burying "still lifes" in layers of clay, firing the piece in a high-temperature kiln, then carving back through its hardened surface, Fondaw rediscovers his found objects, transformed by fire.

"It may be weeks or months until I get around to cutting back through these pieces to reveal these interiors of still life," he says. 'And it has all gone through a transformation, sometimes things have melted and changed colors. It's symbolic, I think, of our memories of the past."

The process is one in which he intentionally relinquishes control. "I have no hard and fast preconceptions about how these things will look because I'm kind of uncovering them anew and finding them anew as I break back into them."

Through distressed surfaces and cracked, broken forms, Fondaw conveys a sense of nostalgia. Not a sentimental clinging to the past, but rather a sensibility thet reflects the importance of the past.

In "Waste Land," charred sewing machine cabinets, burned beyond recognizable form, precariously uphold sheets of glass. Connotations of the body, of age and vulnerability, are evidenced in these forms, while thoughts and images swim between the lofty translucent layers, becoming hazed and distorted the more deeply one looks into them.

The work is titled after T.S. Elliot's poem, "The Waste land," and indeed the poem, especially its third to last line, "these fragments that I have shored against my ruins," resonates with the ruins and fragments found in this piece and throughout the exhibition

While notions of time and memory are at play in the objects displayed in the first room, the second room invites the viewer into a nebula of light, pattern and reflection.

"You're not in Kansas anymore," Fondaw says. "That is all, but that is enough."

The viewer enters through a portal tilted "Veil," made of smooth, carefully collected rocks arranged into a pattern of concentric circles. The rocks, resembling the wake of a stone dropped into water, riple out from the rubber veil, tempering one to push through.

This new space contrasts with the previous room filled with "domestic evidence." There is no obvious mark of the hand; even the viewer's body becomes a part of this environment, brought to consciousness by the change in temperature.

The effect of stones floating and the symbol of illusion may be what lies at the heart of this exhibition: a glimpse of the metaphysical experience bubbling up out of the everyday and mundance acts we fill our lives with.

Julie Stevenson
Guest Curator
2001
Gallery 210 Exhibition Catalog