The New Yorker

Mel Kendrick

October 23, 2017

The New York sculptor’s memorable black-and-white woodblock prints, which he made in the early nineties, suggest pages of closely set type—if those pages were nine feet tall and seventeen feet wide. The interplay of chalky woodgrain patterns and speckled blacks is enlivened by sharp white lines, notably in “10 Loops 3,” in which two long, serrated shapes descend against a dark background. Anchoring the half-dozen prints is Kendrick’s jaggedly energetic “Black-Oil Sculpture No. 4,” a poplar construction darkened with lampblack—a dramatic drawing in three dimensions.

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The Brooklyn Rail

Mel Kendrick: Woodblock Drawings

November 2, 2017

Based in New York since 1971, Mel Kendrick is best known as a sculptor, though he has consistently worked on drawings. This practice goes back a long time—the six woodblock works on exhibit date from 1992 to 1993. As Mark Pascale, a curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, explains in an accompanying catalogue essay, the imagery in these compositions result from being printed from “horizontally aligned sheets of plywood.” The application of ink is heavy, and the imagery looks thoroughly abstract. But, even so, Kendrick’s drawings display a lightness of being we might not expect from a body of work so dark in color. The group of drawings—Kendrick call these efforts “drawings” despite their having been printed—possesses a subtlety and a fineness that seems to lean slightly toward Asia. But it is impossible to culturally pin down their effect. Whatever cultures the artist may draw from, it remains clear that in both his sculptures and his two-dimensional works, he is an independent.

One of the most immediately striking qualities of 10 Loops 3 (1992) is its highly visible woodgrain, seen as thin white lines against a black background in the two trunk-like verticals that dominate the composition. The title refers to the ten loops that occur both inside and outside these massive-seeming tree trunks. Those loops inside the trunks are black, while those outside them are whitish. In the black expanse that forms the background, one sees myriad flecks of white, which give the impression of sweepings floating in cosmic space. Although the composition is abstract, given that Kendrick usually works with wood when he sculpts, we can take a leap and suggest that natural imagery is being implied by the two tree-like images. The curvilinear white outlines defining the loops give definition to what otherwise might be an inchoate presentation of form.  But this close description doesn’t do justice to the elegance, and also the mystery, of what we see. We might well expect such critically reticent work from Kendrick, whose art has often seemed self-referential and thematically contained.

Blades (1993) continues Kendrick’s patterns of forms outlined by white bands against a dark backing, littered with raw white scrapes and blotches. Here the loops exist as triangles, nearly squared forms, and tall, thin rectangles, all of them seemingly hovering above a black abyss, which is activated by small strokes of white. Because Kendrick consistently uses black as his background, it is easy enough to see the setting as a night sky. At the same time, the imagery does remain thoroughly nonobjective, so that a figurative reading is inevitably speculative: we are imposing a cohesiveness on what is more or less free form. But it doesn’t matter whether we read the composition as abstract or figurative; one of Kendrick’s strengths lies in his ability to make work that leans in both directions. In Ten Loops Split  (1993), we see a lot of woodgrain used as a background, while the ten loops for three horizontal range across the length of the drawing. The white blade-like forms cut across the grain and loops, asserting themselves as if they were determined to overwhelm the forms beneath them. Kendrick’s gift derives from his thorough knowledge of modernism, but there is also something else, something outside modernity, in this work. Woodblock printing is an ancient practice, and some of its archaic gravitas survives in these drawings.

No show by Kendrick should be absent of sculpture—he is currently one of the best American sculptors working. The gallery put up only one piece, and it was monumental and appealing to the point of being splendid. Sculpture No. 4 (1991), a nine-foot work, is constructed from poplar and steel and is tinted with lampblack and linseed oil. A composition of unusual intricacy, the work is supported by five wooden staves ending in points. Cuts are made into wooden spars that are closely packed; some of them are colored. Fitted together like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, with certain groups of wood darkened by lampblack, the sculpture manifests density and an imperial poise. Because the wooden components jut outward in all directions, Sculpture No. 4 requires its viewers to circle the piece entirely. Its elements shift and break away from any easy overall gestalt. In the American art world, a premium has been put on the conceptual intent behind a work’s creation, but an overwrought intellectualism is not part of Kendrick’s outlook. Instead, he saves his considerable intelligence for making drawings and sculptures that are intricate on the face of things, but also cohesive in their motivation and overall design…

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The New Criterion

Gallery Chronicle

October 2017

Mel Kendrick has staked his career on exploring the positive and the negative in drawing, printmaking, photography, and sculpture. With the eye of a photographic plate, he finds the black in the white, the projection in the emulsion, the print in the press, and the shape in the void. Most known for his sculptures carved out of blocks that form their own pedestals, Kendrick has a varied studio practice that may find his stamps turned into sculptures turned into photographs, all in a flipping, tumbling performance of process and materials.

Now at Chelsea’s David Nolan Gallery, “Mel Kendrick: Woodblock Drawings” reassembles a series of large-scale woodblock prints created in 1992 and 1993 along with a single spidery wooden construction. What from far away resemble surrealist drawings are revealed, upon closer inspection, to be enormous paper sheets printed with equally enormous plywood stamps. Closer still and the manufacturing of these stamped objects becomes apparent, with the swirling jigsaw cuts and metal hardware, down to the Phillips-head screws, that must have held the stamps together. In the paper print of this wooden matrix, cuts become lines and woodgrain becomes shading, with the wood’s textural variations now transformed into the stark contrast of a black print on white paper. Kendrick calls these prints “drawings:’ and in the silky lines of the woodgrain they draw out a startling impression.

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New York Magazine

To Do: Twenty-five things to see, hear, watch, and read

October 1, 2017

That’s art, not just process.
It’s a hard truth that most of the artists who emerged from the late-1970s process-art scene never really evolved. A wonderful exception is Mel Kendrick, 68, who is still all process, all the time, but whose monumental gray-black jigsawlike renderings made into drawings come on like claps of optical thunder with lingering intellectual reverberations.

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The Village Voice

Mel Kendrick: ‘sub-stratum’

November 3, 2015

For Mel Kendrick, air and concrete prove interchangeable. The artist uses a hot wire to carve lithe forms out of foam blocks and then casts the shapes — and the shells left behind — in concrete. Some of the more open rectangles are stacked atop the extracted volumes, succinctly solving the age-old conundrum of pedestal vs. sculpture. These riveting constructions, where the guts underpin the carcass, entice the eye with their visceral grace while flummoxing the brain, which struggles to fit the parts back together.

One piece, white as a sepulcher, this time with the weighty volume atop the void, is titled Clear Ideas (After Magritte), referencing the surrealist’s painting of a boulder and a cloud hovering above ocean waves. Like that master, Kendrick asks us not, “What is reality?” but, more crucially, “What is possible?”

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Art in America

The Lookout

February 2014

A vibrant show of Mel Kendrick’s recent works, “Water Drawings” features an abstract wood sculpture centered around a process of deconstruction and reconstruction. The stained red mahogany Red Wall #6 (2013), an atypical example constructed with facets of organic shapes, corresponds to the 20 large cast pulp-paper works (up to 80-by-60 inches) that are the highlights of the show. These richly textured, unique pieces featuring interlocking rounded shapes were created by pressing pigment-stained rubber molds into the paper paste and allowing them to dry. Retaining a sense of fluidity, these elegant works are more like relief sculptures than “drawings.”

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The New Criterion

Gallery Chronicle

February 2014

Like everything Kendrick touches, they are created through an intense internal logic that at first seems fully laid out but becomes more mysterious the more you observe. Like his sculptures made of positive and negative volumes, the “water drawings” are created through positive and negative molds, with shapes from a machine-age boneyard that Kendrick arranges flat before slopping on the paper pulp and squeezing out the water under pressure. The resulting “drawing” is itself a negative of the molds and exists in relief on the paper surface, which Kendrick also highlights with carbon black. Now at Nolan, where several of these sheets are arrayed in the main gallery, we can see the evolution of the process. By increasing the complexity of the molds and lowering the contrast of the carbon black, shapes not only sit on one another but thread together in a visual play, which was only enhanced as I walked around them and took in the surfaces undulating in relief. As with his sculptures, Kendrick knows he’s on to something. He may not know what just yet, but he knows it’s great.

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Time Out New York

Mel Kendrick, “Water Drawings”

January 2014

The noted sculptor presents a series of works on paper created by pressing liquid pulp into molds coated with black pigment. The works’ layered abstract imagery recalls metal grates of varying size and pattern, while the way they were made gives each of these objects a rough-hewn tactile presence.

Artery

Inside Out: An Interview With Mel Kendrick

January 15, 2012

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The Sag Harbor Express

A Conversation with Mel Kendrick

July 29, 2011

Additional Articles and Reviews

From Mary Boone to the Parrish: Mel Kendrick Sculptures Visit the Hamptons by Andrew Russeth, The New York Observer, July 2011
Mel Kendrick by Franklin Einspruch, Art in America, June 2011
Gallery Chronicle by James Panero, The New Criterion, April 2011
Mel Kendrick with Ben LaRocco by Ben La Rocco, The Brooklyn Rail, March 2011
Gallery Chronicle by James Panero, The New Criterion, October 2009
Inside Art: “Markers” at the Park by Carol Vogel, The New York Times, September 2009
Mel Kendrick at David Nolan by Nancy Princenthal, Art in America, January 2008
Mel Kendrick at David Nolan by Phoebe Hoban, ARTnews, January 2008
Mel Kendrick at David Nolan by Roberta Smith, The New York Times, November 9, 2007
Mel Kendrick by Ben La Rocco, The Brooklyn Rail, November 2007
Mel Kendrick: Extended Time by Jonathan Goodman, Sculpture Magazine, January/February 2007
Carroll Dunham on Mel Kendrick by Carroll Dunham, Bomb Magazine, Fall 2004
Mel Kendrick by Jonathan Goodman, Sculpture, December 2003
Mel Kendrick : Drawings in Wood. by Ken Johnson, The New York Times, January 17, 2003
Mel Kendrick by Robert Boyce, Sculpture, October 2002
Youth and Experience Transforming a Town by Grace Glueck, The New York Times, August 9, 2002
The Nature of Inspiration by Christine Temin, The Boston Globe, July 4, 2002
Wood Sculptures Romanticize Art, Not Trees by Alice Thorson, Art, The Kansas City Star, Dec 13, 1996
Mel Kendrick at John Weber by Robert Taplin, Art in America, Feburary 1996, p. 88-89
Mel Kendrick’s Ten Loops Slit by Richard Campbell, Arts, The Magazine of the Members of the The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, June 1995, p. 7
New artwork pop up at city’s institutions by Sally Vallongo, The Blade, November 10, 1994, Toledo, OH
Mel Kendrick by Nancy Princenthal, Art in America, Feburary 1994
Mel Kendrick by Donald Kuspit, Artforum, January 1994
6 East End Sculptors at Midcareer by Phyllis Braff, The New York Times, July 26, 1992
Sculpture at Guild Hall Moves Beyond Minimalism by Robert Long, Southampton Press, July 16, 1992
From the Studio, A Far Cry by Rose C.S. Slivka, The East Hampton Star, June 11, 1992
Sag Harbour Sculptors Feature in Show, The Sag Harbour Express, June 11, 1992
Modern and Big, The East Hampton Star, June 11, 1992
Through a Blighted Landscape by Jed Perl, New Criterion, September 1992
Interlocking Parts by Miles Beller, Artweek , no. 13, April 9, 1992, p. 24
Summer Stock by Kay Larson, New York, September 2, 1991, p. 60
In Westchester, Sculpture Meets Nature by Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times, July 19, 1991, c1
Mel Kendrick’s Calculated Risks by Michael Boodro, ARTnews, May 1991, cover and pp. 104-109
review, ‘Summer Group Show’ by Robert C. Morgan, New Art International, Feburary 1991, p. 82
Portfolio: Mel Kendrick, Bomb, Spring 1990, pp. 74-79
Mel Kendrick at Salam-Caro Gallery by Anne Barclay Morgan, Sculpture, May/June 1990, pp. 98-99
Review, ‘Mel Kendrick’, The Print Collector’s Newsletter, May/June 1990, pp. 60-61
Out of Wood by Cynthia Nadelman, Sculpture, May/June 1990, pp. 95-98
Mel Kendrick and The Well-Adjusted Object by Bruce W. Ferguson, Art in America, February 1990, pp. 146-155
Complex Forms by John Dorsey, The Sun, Baltimore, January 4, 1990
Sculpture Shows at Two Branches of The Whitney by Michael Brenson, The New York Times, Dec 22, 1989
review by Lewis Kachur, Art International, Autumn 1989, p. 58
Mel Kendrick at John Weber by Gloria Amann, Cover, Summer 1989, p. 14
untitled by Mel Kendrick, Balcon, Summer 1989, pp. 164-169
Contemporary American Art on Display by Theodore F. Wolff, Bay News, April 17, 1989
Going Beyond Slickness: Sculptors Get Back to Basics by Michael Brenson, The New York Times, March 3, 1989
Art, The New Yorker, April 3, 1989, 12
Museum Show Reflects New Attention to Sculpture by Tom Wachunas, The Phoenix, March 2, 1989
Mel Kendrick: Essays by Michael FitzGerald, Trinity Reporter, Winter 1989
Pilgrim’s, Process by Nancy Princenthal, The New York Times, March 13, 1987, pp. 76-77
Photos and Sculptures at the Aldrich by Vivien Raynor, The New York Times, November 27, 1988
Witty Art – Historical Quotations by Joan Hugo, Artweek, March 12, 1988
Sculptors-In-Process by Ann Berman, Town and Country, September 1987, pp. 269-272
At Newberger Sculptor Rediscovers Wood in Exotic Ways by William Zimmer, The New York Times, Aug 6, 1987, p. 28
7 Artists in the New Britain Show by Vivien Raynor, The New York Times, April 12, 1987, p. 26
New Britain Exhibit Wisely Avoids Theme and Displays by Matt Damsker, The Hartford Courant, March 22, 1987
Up with Color and Craft by Patricia Degener, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 8, 1987, p. 4c
Kendrick: Process and Experimentation by Phyllis Tuchman, Newsday, New York, February 20, 1987, p. 29
Head, Heart, and Hands by Steven Kaplan, Artfinder, Spring 1987, pp. 96-102
Mel Kendrick at Barbara Krakow Gallery by Thomas Frick, Art New England, May 1986
On and Off the Street by David Bonnetti, The Boston Phoenix, Section Three, April 15, 1986
untitled by Christine Temin, The Boston Globe, March 27, 1986
Sculptor’s Wonderful Way with Wood by Nancy Stapen, The Boston Herald, March 28, 1986
The Road Now Taken by Phyllis Tuchman, Art Criticism, vol. 2, 1986
Le Cienge Area by Suzanne Muchnic, Los Angeles Times, November 29, 1985, Part V, p. 16
untitled by Susanne Stephens, House & Garden, November 1985, photo of work only
untitled, Bomb Magazine, No. XIII, Fall 1985, p. 67, photo of work only
Review by Thomas McElvilley, Artforum, May 1985, pp. 112-113
Contrasts in Form: Geometric Abstract Art, 1910-1980, from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art Including the Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation by Magdalena Dabrowski, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Vitality Emerges from Geometric Abstraction by Suzanne Muchnic, L.A. Times, February 1985
Concepts in Construction: 1910-1980, a traveling exhibition by Vivien Raynor, The New York Times, February 10, 1985
Sculptors Interviews by Wade Saunders, Art in America, November 1985, pp. 110-111, 122-123
The Whitney Biennial: The MTV of Art by Phyllis Tuchman, Newsday, March 29, 1985
review by Michael Brenson, The New York Times, February 22, 1985
A Decade of New Art by Vivien Raynor, The New York Times, June 8, 1984
A Collection That Breathes The Spirit of Modernism by Grace Glueck, The New York Times, April 8, 1984
untitled by Gregory Hedberg, The Tremaine Collection: 20th Century Masters, 1984, Wadsworth Antheneum, CT
untitled by William Wilson, Los Angeles Times, December 9, 1983
untitled by Kate Linker, Artforum, September 1983
untitled by Theodore Wolff, Christian Science Monitor, May 31, 1983
untitled by Wade Saunders, Art in America, Summer 1983
untitled by Stephen Eiseman, Arts Magazine, June 1983
Sculpture: Mel Kendrick by Vivien Raynor, The New York Times, April 15, 1983
James Biederman, Don Gummer, Mel Kendrick by Claire Wolf Krantz, New Art Examiner, Chicago, March 1982
Review of the Artis Club of Chicago Show by Harold Haydon, Chicago Sun Times, February 12, 1982
Entries: Sheer Grunge by Robert Pincus-Witten, Art in America, May 1981
Mel Kendrick at Weber by Bob Knafo, Art in America, February 1981
New Talent/New York by Nina Sundell, Dialogue, January/February 1981
untitled by Michael Klein, Arts, January 1981
What’s Done in New York by William Olander, Live, January 1981
John Weber Artists Reject Traditional Mold by Lillian Dobbs, The Miami News, January 23, 1981
untitled by Thomas Lawson, Artforum, December 1980
review by William Zimmer, Soho News, October 15, 1980
review by Elizabeth Stevens, Baltimore Sun, June 6, 1980
review by Jo Ann Lewis, Washington Post, June 8 1980
review by Deborah Perlberg, Artforum, May 1979
review by Harriet Seine, New York Post, March 10, 1979
review by Hilton Kramer, The New York Times, August 5, 1977
review by Susan Heinemann, Artforum, April 1974