Steve Linn



In each of the mysterious, living icons that the artist Steve Linn presents he narrates his own history and the history of his art. He tells the story of a creator who has known how to draw upon the best of two cultures on either side of the Atlantic; he also—seemingly unintentionally—provides a summary of the history of sculpture, ceaselessly reinvented with pieces of wood, bronze and glass. What I appreciate in Steve Linn's art is this boldness and freedom of imagination that I associate with his American citizenship. I admire his determination to use three different, traditionally separated materials; I know that his reasons are more personal than theoretical for working in wood, which he learned from his father, adding to this, bronze, a classic technique normally learned at art school, and finally glass, whose high technology requires quasi-industrial facilities.

But what I like in his assemblages is that each material is almost always used in opposition to its normal application. You are thus surprised to see bronze objects made of wood, wooden items in bronze and hands in glass or bronze. The subject of his "alterpieces" is usually a person—famous or unknown—but in a strongly central position and executed simultaneously in the three media. The superposition of elements in relief with a 'realistic' effect (modeled in the round) and linear elements in bas relief on glass giving the effect of certain enlarged photographic negatives results in bewildering complexity. Colors and textures enhance these oppositions. In other sculptures, Steve Linn indulges in his love of literature to stage poetry. His 'paraphrase' of a couplet by Ezra Pound in 'In a Station of the Metro' comes to mind:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd
Petals on a wet black bough.

His works always combine representation and celebration.

It is quite something to see the artist working in his immense studio in an old barn in Claret. He reigns there like Hephaestus at his forge. But Steve Linn is at his most impressive in the role of master glassmaker; he takes refuge in a kind of technological lair, starts up powerful compressors (shipped from New York together with his wife's piano) and then starts the slow, patient, unnerving process of engraving on glass with a high pressure sand jet. Each gesture is decisive in this work; unlike lines plotted by a painter or draftsman, 'repenting' is impossible here. And Steve Linn traces for us, in the thickness of the glass, the line that exists in his spirit.

Jean Vaché

(translation, Simon Barnard)