In conjunction with the International Sculpture Symposium being held in Cincinnati (June 21-24, www.sculpture.org) the Shirley/Jones Gallery will present an exhibition of small sculptures and works on paper by Tom Doyle executed between 1991 and the present.
Tom Doyle was born and grew up in Northern Ohio, at first in Jerry City near Bowling Green, and later in Medina, just west of Akron. He attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio for two years (1948-50) and then transferred to Ohio State University where he majored in Sculpture (BFA, 1952 and MFA,1953), studying with Roy Lichtenstein and Stanley Twardowicz. Doyle moved to New York in 1957 where he met established and emerging abstract expressionists. While he entered this arena after such figures as David Smith, Doyle contends that his was the first generation of Abstract Expressionist sculptors – a group which included him along with Mark Di Suvero, Charles Ginnever, Peter Forakis, George Sugarman, David Weinrib, and Ronald Bladen &ndash to actually explore in sculptural terms the spatial implications of Abstract Expressionist painting.
Doyle was friends with the painter Franz Kline, whose work had an emphatic influence on his own. He was drawn to the directness in Kline's work; its pioneering spirit and the fact that these paintings seemed like sculpture; like things and spaces that could actually be built. In 1958, Doyle made "Stillman," a polychrome wooden linear construction that embraces physical space in the manner implied in much Abstract Expressionist painting. This breakthrough became the basis for his subsequent career.
Doyle's primary medium is wood with which he works directly. Since 1982, he has used his own chain saw and sawmill to cut unusually shaped trees into curving forms which refer to the organic way in which trees react to natural forces as they grow. He then assembles these parts to create movements or gestures through space. He exploits the strength of thick sections to maintain a joint between two elements and allows tapered sections to reach delicately into or across space. He also capitalizes on the varying densities of different kinds of wood to achieve exaggerated cantilevers. These larger works which are roughly human scale are entirely abstract and though they acknowledge the body through their size, and allude to many aspects of the lived and natural worlds, they never settle on a single reading or interpretation. Instead, they seem more to celebrate the act of reaching into the unknown.
Doyle's work also connects the human endeavor to a sense of place – that a place or site is a location where some activity occurred, whether a Civil War skirmish, or obscure Irish locale. While his sculptures are objects, he is interested that they be seen as refering primarily to a place rather than to their own "thingness." He says, "I have always felt my work was not monolithic or from landscape, but relates more to a place – like Stonehenge."
Along the way, Doyle also builds small works of approximately a foot in any direction. Unable to discard an interesting fragment or cut off, he assembles these into what he calls "sketches &ndash not for larger pieces but of ideas." Some are turned over to a foundry and cast directly to become one of a kind bronzes which are then given patinas evocative of the original wood – cherry, oak, butternut, etc. This exhibition will be comprised of a body of these small works. In addition, the gallery will present a selection of drawings and mono prints which have all been done entirely after the fact as a sort of reflection on the internal nature of a particular sculpture he has made.
Doyle taught sculpture for thirty years at institutions in New York City. He has had solo exhibitions at numerous important galleries; exhibited in museum shows nationally and internationally; and executed public installations and commissions. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation and is a member of the National Academy of Design. He also was awarded a life time achievement award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1994) and in 1996 received the Ohioana Career Award. Doyle currently lives and works in rural western Connecticut.
The gallery is open Wednesday-Saturday 2-6pm and by appointment. For further information call (937) 767-1711.