October 26, 2010
SETH KOEN, TUSK, COURTESY OF GREGORY LIND GALLERY
Thar She Blows
Narwhals are the sort of animals that seem too strange to actually exist yet are that much more fantastic because they do. The same could be said of Seth Koen's wonderfully suggestive wood sculptures at Gregory Lind, currently on display in a show that takes its inspiration from the small Artic whale, and its singular spiraling horn (actually a tooth).
Koen carves and planes his pale maple and basswood pieces into smooth planks with soft, curved edges that typically bend 90 degrees at a certain point. Their placement on the walls or floor, along with their titles, suggest various marine mammals, or the sort of tools that ancient fisherman would use to hunt those very same creatures.
With its two dowel-like appendages poking from what resembles the joined back and seat of a chair turned upside-down, Tusk sketches a walrus with but the simplest lines. So, too, does Selkie, with its upturned spire, evoke the titular shape-shifting seal of Celtic lore, as well as the horned creature from which the exhibit takes its name and creates a strange new adjective: "Narwhellian."
It is a fanciful variation on "Orwellian," as well as a repudiation of that word's sinister connotations of control and manipulation. Koen's sculptures, whose simple shapes are at once unspecific and particularly evocative, welcome a freedom of interpretation. Almost toy-like, they invite play.