On the surface, John Christian Anderson’s brawny, careworn sculptural assemblages and Jeffu Warmouth’s goofy, surrealist installation at Boston Sculptors Gallery have little in common. But the two shows — Anderson’s “Dancing in the Bardo” and Warmouth’s “Urgent Blowout” — both hint at a crisis point and a perilous stasis.
Anderson prowls the streets for scrap and builds sculpture from his finds, carving here and painting there. His scuffed, stained, and splintery pieces share something with Melvin Edwards’s steel sculptures — a sense of hard work, time passing, and the weight of the world bearing down. He hangs bulky works on knobs with heavy rope; he leans them against the wall as if they’re weary.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the bardo is akin to limbo. In “Crossing Over,” Anderson depicts that type of liminal existence, placing sticks with carved hands between caged metal boxes covered in indigo rice paper.
The little hands rise as if asking to be chosen, to be moved from here to there. The cages are rough, rusty, unbudgeable traps. The piece brings to mind family separation at the border. But does the fragile blue paper disguise the cages, or imbue them with a delicate, ethereal thread of hope?
Warmouth has always fueled his videos, sculptures, and installation work with broad, self-referential comedy. All of that Jeffu can be off-putting unless you realize his art wrestles with the nattering ego. Here, that ego is downright inflatable.
At the center of “Urgent Blowout” sits a 10-foot wide inflatable coffee cup in the shape of his Warmouth’s face: eyes, nose, and trademark handlebar mustache. Dozens of fabric Jeffu heads — the stuff of punching bags — fill the cup. In a video, the balls endlessly topple into the cup, until a giant Jeffu ball comes down on the rest, and they all vanish. Maybe this is what happens when your head just gets too big.
Anderson’s and Warmouth’s aesthetic approaches are far afield, but they both witness chaos. It’s no wonder, in the end, that the state of the world would in many ways rhyme with the traps of the mind.
JOHN CHRISTIAN ANDERSON: DANCING IN THE BARDO
JEFFU WARMOUTH: URGENT BLOWOUT
At Boston Sculptors Gallery, 486 Harrison Ave., through Jan. 26. 617-482-7781, www.bostonsculptors.com
Cate McQuaid can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.