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All About Transcendence

It begins as corrugated board and ends as sculpture. Henry Klimowicz takes the board from what he calls its “base moment” and gives it form in muscular, organic pieces that are strong, evocative and surprisingly beautiful. Now a cross section of his newer work is on exhibition at the Hotchkiss School’s Tremaine Gallery in a dramatic, eye-opening show. Klimowicz started making corrugated sculpture when he first came to New York City from his native Wisconsin. After he and his wife, Kristie Schmidt, and their daughter, Ella, moved to Millerton 10 years ago, he gave up art to administer his wife’s medical practice and care for Ella. But five years later, he began working again in a studio he made in the family’s barn. (Klimowicz also founded the Re-Institute, a large exhibition space for new artists, in the same barn.) Working with a utility knife and glue gun, the artist cuts, teases and manipulates his simple waste material — Klimowicz gets most of his board from Herrington’s, some from Irving Farm Coffee House, some from Sky Farm’s lettuce boxes — into vital, living pieces of art. His compositions are abstract and carefully controlled; they change color depending on how he cuts the boards and from where you view them. Each is singular and stands on its own; yet together they seem parts of a larger, grand creation. (Klimowicz may be especially comfortable working with corrugated’s range of brown tones since he is partially color blind to reds and greens.) Perhaps the most emphatic work hangs just to the right of the Tremaine’s entrance: “Rectangle I-V, The Burghers of Calais,” a reference to Rodin’s famous sculpture of the six (yes, not five) brave citizens who volunteered their lives (but were in fact spared) to save Calais from being destroyed by the English during the Hundred Years’ War. Each large rectangle hangs vertically with strips of board glued on underlying board in broad, downward patterns, sometimes angled midway, layer on layer. The colors move from light brown to dark; the layers are thick and irregular. All are finished with final coatings of acrylic polymer and varnish. On the far back wall hang two large and compelling circular works. One is made from sliced cross sections of rolled board glued to a strong backing. It resembles a microscopic slide of single cell organisms greatly magnified. The other is called “Rambutan,” after the Asian fruit that is protected by a spiny, multi-pointed covering. Here, Klimowicz has cut his board into thousands of pointed ends, so that the finished sculpture seems to move like living coral. A wonderful horizontal piece is based on the prize-winning quilts of Klimowicz’s aunt. Little ovals of rolled board are glued onto strips of corrugated board. The strips are wired together with space between each, then perforated Continued from across their widths. Under its protective varnish, the work seems made of hand-tooled leather. Another horizontal work is made of deli-cate lacy swirls of cut board between vertical board strips. The work is mounted so that it hangs away from the wall and casts shadows that change with the viewer’s vantage point. In the middle of the gallery the largest work — a forest of rolled corrugated tubes — hangs on individual wires from the ceiling nearly to the floor. The tubes move slightly in the air though their matte color stays mostly the same. Klimowicz’s work is about transcendence: A base material with its utilitarian past and future as waste becomes something beautiful and lasting in his hands. This show will surprise you. It should not be missed. “Henry Klimowicz” is at the Tremaine Gallery at The Hotchkiss School through Feb. 2. An opening reception is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 7, from 4 - 6 p.m. The gallery’s regular hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Sunday, noon - 4 p.m. Call 860-435-3663 for information.

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