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REVIEW MAGAZINE, February 1, 2000:
‹Nicholas Micros, Sculpture, Trans Hudson Gallery›,
by Mark Daniel Cohen

Nicholas Micros’ last exhibition at Trans Hudson Gallery was good, and this one is better. Two years ago, his sculptural work was showing the formation of an individual voice, an identifiable signature style. Now there is a clear motif and a fully developed personal touch to the execution, a manner to his sculpture that is all his own. That is half the good news of this exhibition. The other half is that there is a young sculptor who is making the figurative mode an authentic means of personal vision.

The current exhibition contains nine works, all completed this year. Eight of them are small cast sculptures, modeled in plaster, sticks and other bits of detritus appropriate to the desired forms, and cast in aluminum with a bronze overlay. The last work is a monumental exercise in plaster, modeled on a welded steel armature and coated in a lime/milk wash. It stands over 10 feet high.

Figurative is the accurate word, but is somewhat misleading, for the issue here is the distortion of the figure, taken to such extremes that at some points, the sense of the human form is almost completely lost. At first exposure, the continuing motif appears to be, more precisely, the figure decaying, wearing a shroud or bound in winding sheets, cracks running through it and pieces of it falling away, the deterioration carrying so far that there is little of recognizable life left.

Yet, even that is not right. More precisely still, the motif is of the figure forming out of the materials of the earth, materials such as clumps of dirt and the webs of fiber between the limbs of trees, of hornet’s nests and honeycombs. It is as if all the loose stuff of the forest floor – the stuff that other forms of life leave behind them – had risen and drawn itself together and begun to step forward as a living, nearly human presence.

There is a Solomon Gundy aspect to these acts of imagination, and there is something ghoulish about them, and something pathetic, for the deeper sensibility of the artist has become infused in them, and they are something more than Halloween dreamings. ‹Statue and Veil›, 2000 stands somewhere between the human and the inhuman, and it touches something sympathetic to its form. It appears as if dead trees in the woods had begun to draw toward each other, the insect webbing and pieces of honeycomb and pupa that hang from their branches starting to assemble and bind the trees together into an ambulatory mass. And there is an attitude to its stance – as if it were someone crippled and old, broken by life and struggling to take just a few more steps.

‹Mirandorla›, 2000 stands at the opposite end of Micros’ emotional spectrum. It is perhaps the finest and most frightening of the small works. It bears a touch of the Classical in its revisitation of the traditional almond form of ornamentation. In its contentual value, it depicts a shrouded figure sitting on a bench. The figure opens its shroud, and there emerges from the widening hole in the robe an indistinct and indecipherable organic form, something insect-like but clearly not an independent entity – an appendage like one has never seen before, like nothing one has dreamed in the darkest of nightmares. This is the true aspect of biomorphism – the tetratism, the strange and horrifying living form which reveals that any departure from the normal, any change in the given logics of life forms, amounts to a monster.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is, of course, the monumental ‹Horseman›, 2000. The work was done in homage to Micros’ father. Who died last year. It is a standing mass of complex white forms, forms so densely packed that they constitute nearly an indecipherable and looming block. Unfortunately, the gallery is barely big enough to permit the proper perspective on the work – it would look its best from a further viewpoint than one can get here. Find the correct line of vision, and it becomes clear that this white mass is a rough formulation of a rider on a horse, arms stretched out to extraordinary distances at its sides, the left hand turned palm up, the right lowering, palm down. Winding sheets wrap the figures of the horse and rider and hang loosely from them, largely obscuring their definitions. Before the horse and rider stands another figure so tightly bound as to be of indeterminate aspect. And next to that figure rises a shrouded pillar.

Approach closer and walk around the work and the impression changes. You encounter then a coagulating mass, with separated heads, hands and feet, and ears emerging in and hanging from the complexity of the cloth. The impression is comparable to Rodin’s ‹Gates of Hell› – a vision of the souls of the dead thrown about in the welter of what follows this life.

The reference to Rodin is appropriate, for there is much of Rodin in Micros’ handling of form, most clearly in his handling of the hands and in particular, the thumbs. And there is another reason, as well. Micros is good enough that his works ask to be estimated according to the highest standards of sculpture – as manipulations of pure form. Beyond the pictorial references, the implications of the recognizable images he evokes, there is the question of the formal ingenuity of his work. For that is what sculpture essentially and most simply is – the sophisticated manipulation of forms in space. This is an estimation appropriate to only the most ambitious of sculptors, and Micros certainly qualifies.

The comparison to Rodin indicates where Micros still has weaknesses. He has not yet sufficiently broken from the grid, from the arrangement of lines that are purely vertical and horizontal. Primarily, his forms are arrangements of boxes, and this can be seen most easily by following the flow of light – generally, it either cuts across or falls straight down. Far less often does it stream in diagonals. In short, Micros’ works make insufficient use of torsion. This was the very thing that Rodin was supremely good at – twisting the fall of light around his forms.

However, this is the final field of mastery for the sculptor. The hardest thing the sculptor can attempt – the spiraling and interlacing flow of light. And Micros is still relatively young for a sculptor, turning 40 this year. His aspirations are correct, and they demand he be judged without excuses. His current efforts promise a fascinating body of work to follow in the future, to see when it will be that his accomplishments become as right as his ambitions.

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