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review of Gabriella Dobo

by John Clay

Gabriella Dobo's sculpture work is full of playful contrasts. She pursues these contrasts deliberately and itemizes them in her artist statement: small and large, modern and classical, opaque and translucent, still and moving, noble and common, solid and open. The contrast that most interests me, as viewer, is that of permanence and impermanence--also mentioned in her statement. The napkins and paper towels of "Fru Fru Mountain" and "Sounion" are raw, untreated with fixative. What will happen to such impermanent elements over time? How will they metamorphose? Will they change color and texture? This last question touches on another quality of the work: Despite the incorporation of everyday objects such as straws, paper towels, and sugar cubes, there is a pristine, museum-like quality to the sculpture. Will metamorphosis over time give rise to a contrast of pure and impure?

Fru Fru Mountain. Alabaster, deli napkins. 15l x 4w x 4h. © Gabriella Dobo

The binding of the sculptures through the natural weight and balance of the materials, without adhesives of any kind, places Dobo's works firmly within the classical tradition of western sculptural art, even while the loose piling of lightweight materials like "Sounion's" paper towels, "Phro's" plastic straws, and "Fru Fru Mountain's" deli napkins gives her works an ephemeral nature akin to much art of the late twentieth century and the present. Like Robert Smithson's gallery pieces assembled from earth, stones, and mirrors, Dobo's sculptures are assembled for exhibition and disassembled for storage. The parts can be lost—and replaced, as long as someone keeps a record of the original design. Despite the seeming informality of sculptures that come apart, the sculptures are executed with convincing skill, precision, and imagination, and are pleasing in shape and proportion.

One of Dobo's stated aims is to limit the color palette of her work in order to emphasize light, shadow, and form, and the limited color does accomplish this result. Yet I find myself drawn to the blue plastic straws of "Phro". The color adds a new stimulus, and one that is not a distraction. The blue of the straws contrasts with the white of the marble and highlights the difference between the two elements, signaling all the contrasts: modern and classical, impermanent and permanent, and so on.

I would enjoy seeing further explorations into the use of color in some of the artist's new works. In line with Dobo's governing classical approach, the color would need to be inherent in the natural state of the materials (as with stone) or in the conventional manufactured state (as with plastic drinking straws). The many natural colors of stone alone could yield a widely expanded palette without loss of artistic integrity. Further exploration into evolution through degradation of the impermanent—or evolution through variability of replacement parts, if that is more fitting to Dobo's intent—might also yield new directions.

Sounion. Marble, industrial papertowels. 15l x 10w x 7h. © Gabriella Dobo

Phro. Styrofoam, marble, drinking straws, rubberband, plexiglass. 18l x 6w x 6h. © Gabriella Dobo

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