The process of creating art is often one of the greatest mysteries for anyone studying the work of a particular artist. The who, where, when, why and how of artistic creation can be elusive and sometimes indistinguishable, even if you have the opportunity to ask an artist directly.
That’s why you’ll find exhibits dedicated to the studies and drawings of hugely famous historical artists like Michelangelo or Cézanne, even when the artist never intended that part of his work or process to be exhibited in a gallery or a museum.
“Thinking Large, Working Small,” an exhibition on view through March 26 at the 3G Gallery on the third floor of Summit Artspace, is a fun and fascinating look at Kenn Hetzel’s studio practice. The exhibit consists of 100 small-scale stone sculptures that double as models for large-scale pieces that “may or may not” be built.
After visiting the sculpture gardens of the Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, New York, and Chuck Herndon’s studio and sculpture gardens on Kelleys Island, Hetzel was inspired to combine aspects of both in a series of works. From 2017 to 2020, he creates the 100 sculptures.
“Inspiration for my works varies widely, as do the sculptures themselves,” Hetzel notes in his artist statement.
The works are largely built of stone. However, stone is frequently combined with metal, wood, and found objects, which helps keep the viewer’s eyes moving through the piece.
The way the sculptures are presented is also interesting.
The artist has created an unusual system of shelving on a small balustrade that runs around the perimeter of the gallery. Each shelf contains an artwork and a corresponding number from 1 to 100. The size of each shelf appears to match the artwork as some are smaller while others are longer, depending on what is placed on them.
The different shelf sizes help create a rhythm for the display and make it easier to engage with the work as you explore the sculptures.
In the center of the room are two large stone and steel sculptures inspired by the smaller 100 rooms.
“Sculpture 1”, as it is called, features a pile of boulders of varying sizes that have been dug out. This piece is akin to Buddhist stacking stones where different shapes of rocks are stacked on top of each other, each layer representing a different wish of the person making the stack.
“Sculpture 2” features a rectangular stone column with a sculpted, abstract, lighter shade of stone stacked on it. Above the lighter stone element is a rusty slice of what could be a metal pipe. Despite the obvious weight and the forces of gravity acting on the elements of this sculpture, it is still an expressive work that seems to defy gravity a bit by inviting you to look at it.
The 100 models that line the exterior walls of the gallery display many different and interesting works. It’s stimulating to browse the gallery to see which pieces you react to the most.
“Number 85” is a mixed media work that features a triangular stone that has been delineated/encased in wood. On the longest part of the right triangle or hypotenuse is another smaller piece of triangular stone which is attached by a small piece of cabled wire to the top of the larger element.
This sculpture features a lot of gravity-induced tension for a fairly small object, 2.25 inches tall by 5 inches wide by 0.75 inches in diameter. It is also a finished work or “complete” thought that is easy to ponder the sculpture recreated on a much larger scale.
What is perhaps most compelling about this exhibition is how the artist created not just 100 small models with two larger works, but how the artist created moments of clarity and contemplation in a space also confined. You really can take a ride with Hetzel if you want, and it’s an intense, deep dive into the point of creation and completion of each work. It can only be inspiring.
“Thinking Large, Working Small” is an exhibition by an artist who has chosen to showcase and even highlight his studio practice and some of the processes he goes through when working on sculptures.
This is an exhibition that draws you in and brings you back to see it the more time you spend with the work. It’s worthy of a visit to Summit Artspace.
Exposure: “Think Big, Work Small” by Kenn Hetzel
Place: 3G Gallery at Summit Artspace, 140 E. Market St., Akron
Hours: Noon to 7 p.m. Fridays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays until March 26
More information: https://www.summitartspace.org or 330-376-8480
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: The Summit Artspace exhibition is rock solid