Image of Messenger and Cave by William Tucker
William Tucker, Messenger and Cave. Photo © Dr Jim Roseblade

William Tucker

Works exhibited: Messenger, Cave.

William Tucker’s move from England to the United States in 1978 seemed to catalyze the magnetic pull of European art history that has affected all the work he has produced during his subsequent exile.

But however strongly the influence of traditional forms, motifs, and themes has motivated the monumental sculpture he has produced in the last three decades, its ability to control and determine the legibility of these works is seriously in doubt. Just like the artist himself, these cultural objects have migrated a long way from their starting point.

The most striking feature that the recent works have in common is an overwhelming fluidity, and a corresponding lack of ductility, that the viewer is always unprepared for. Their robustly unfinished appearance is part of an overall intractability governing both shape and texture; they seem to have been extruded from another dimension rather than modelled according to the conventions of this one.

The title of Messenger (2001) seems thoroughly ironic, given the work’s apparent insistence on a failure of communication. And even after a series of adjustments —of scale, of focus, and of memory— has been completed and the viewer is able to grasp the object’s resemblance to a foot —despite its size and volume— this recognition is quickly succeeded by another; that this is a foot in motion, on the point of departure, leaving one condition for another, just as its mass is permanently on the brink of crossing from form to formlessness and vice versa.

The title of Cave (2005) seems to have an equally teasing intent, with its glancing allusion to Plato’s conception of the world as a parade of shadows that only dimly evoke the original forms by which they are cast. And it may be that the specific form of a clenched fist is also alluding to Zeno’s distinction between the closed fist and the open hand as figures for the perceived alternatives of logic and rhetoric, for the inward turning, self sustaining rationale of the former, and the communicative, persuasive justifications of the latter.

There is a paradox inherent in Tucker’s negotiation with these figures that turns the moment of our recognition of the closed fist into an event that opens up its meanings.

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