Unpublished, and not edited; written March/April 1978
by Wade Saunders —
Marilynn Gelfman-Pereira’s sculptures derive from the binary oppositions inhering in the relation between metal and wood: chemically formed against biochemically formed, relatively strong against relatively weak, preternaturally straight against approximately straight, applied geometry against native geometry, the fabricated against the fortuitous. Instead of elucidating the materials, her hybridization often trivializes them. For example, branching in trees and shrubs can follow complex mathematical ratios and progressions, trunk to branch to stem to leaf to vein. Her branches have junctures of a certain consistency, have bark, taper, but are not handled as being interesting in themselves. They have been made poor, subjugated like the wire, and are useful mostly as they permit her formal manipulations. Her technical competence is obvious but it acts as an impediment more than an aid: the most interesting pieces are made when she is least busy putting her materials through formal and technical paces.
Her pieces suggest both the evolution and cross-cultural congruence of knowledge. Cause and effect can be controlled without knowing the mechanism of linkage; things simple to us can embody extraordinary complexity for others. In 26-78 OK she has her wire spring from a single stick so the latter becomes votive, a pipe, a rattle, a thing fusing two qualities and suggesting many. It is not the simple juxtaposition that provokes or promotes the result—she tries it often enough without success—but the particular linkage, the respect. The bones in 16-78 OK and 17-78 OK help her refer because they are connected in the popular mind with magic. The bones make the wire look warm, crafted, felt. She takes a rusted metal grill in 6-78 OK and leaves it look like her sticks, while the sticks mimic wires. The piece has wit. So much thinking must have been done with sticks, must be done with sticks, that it is nice to see them again regarded, as they are sometimes here, as mnemonically useful, not as a folksy construction material.