Peter Shelton: littleBIG

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Installation view

The sculptor and the human body, a positively ancient relationship and yet it still offers sustenance when practiced by certain artists. Peter Shelton has engaged in that dialogue for decades, finding renewal through materials and forms that are always stretched to accomodate his own way of doing business.

frenchvent, 2004
23 x 16 x 10 1/2 in. (58.4 x 40.6 x 26.7 cm)
copyright Peter Shelton, courtesy L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

He exhibits regularly at L.A. Louver Gallery in Venice, where there was a large survey in 2012, and he contributed a collection of impressive public sculptures, dark kneeling and long legged beasts, along Spring Street downtown. A graduate of Pomona College in 1973 — an art department that produced James Turrell and Chris Burden — Shelton pursued the study of welding before completing his graduate studies at UCLA. Interest in the intuitive yet intelligent making of sculpture is apparent in a discreet survey in the José Drudis-Biada Art Gallery at Mount St. Mary’s College on view through Oct. 25. It is an opportunity to see an evolution of certain ideas.

mouthheader, 1987-1991
283 x 8 x 10 1/2 in.(20.3 x 718.8 x 26.7 cm)
copyright Peter Shelton, courtesy L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

pinkloaf, 1999-2000
mixed media
28 x 49 x 23 in. (72.12 x 124.46 x 58.42 cm)
copyright Peter Shelton, courtesy L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

In this show, Shelton’s sculptures meld seemingly contradictory forces such as weightlessness and weight. They are tough and tender, sober and funny, elevated and base. Many of his works are based on identifiable aspects of the human body such as vertebrae or organs such as mouthheader, (1987-91) a cast steel spinal cord suspended from the ceiling. pinkloaf (1999-2000) resembles the top half of a headless fleshy torso, the cropped arms dangling at the sides. It is off-putting yet also has the comic appeal of an inflated giant balloon in the Macy's parade.

redtop, 1992 - 2000
mixed media
38 x 46 x 44 in. (196.5 x 116.8 x 111.8 cm)
copyright Peter Shelton, courtesy L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

godshole, 2003
mixed media
60 x 30 x 60 in. (142.2 x 185.4 x 114.3 cm)
copyright Peter Shelton, courtesy L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

redtop (1992-2002) is a bulbous crimson dome that is mounted on the wall. The surface is burnished, brushed and drawn with a patina that underscores the hand-made nature of Shelton’s work. These large scale sculptures are interspersed with objects of modest size, some small enough to be held in the hand. Hence the title of the show: littleBIG. In this show, most of the work is experienced frontally, not in the round, so that it hovers between two and three dimensionality. A number of drawings demonstrate how closely his final sculptures follow his use of line. Shelton’s work can have a metaphysical quality, too. The sculpture godshole (2003), an alabaster colored sphere indented in the center was termed a “cosmic orifice” by critic Leah Ollman, perfect for a show being held at the gallery of a Catholic college. For more information, go to