Boaz Vaadia - About the Artist - Articles, Awards, and Reviews

"Human - Nature"
Dr. Judy Collischan
Boaz Vaadia - Stone Sculpture - 1992

The power of Boaz Vaadia's work derives from his respect for and extension of natural materials and processes. Within the course of the past two decades, he has concentrated on sculpture made from stone and wood, employing a methodology dictated by properties inherent in these media. This body of work is reflective of both nature and the artist's own projection of human identity.

In the latter part of the seventies, Vaadia utilized rock and wood in an abstract context. Roughly hewn wooden poles lashed together around chipped slabs of stratified rock characterizes sculpture that resembles fetishes or sacred markers. This direct treatment of materials resembles early Native American, African or Pre-Columbian cultures wherein certain objects evoked a special or religious aura. In both Vaadia's work and that of ancient civilizations, common substances singled out for attention acquire spiritual connotations. His abstractions of this period are otherworldly and animate in their effect.

Interestingly enough, the natural media he used initially were gathered from his own New York City setting. Found sidewalk sections, window slabs, curbstones and shingles were marshaled by the artist into organically expressive work. Out of a stereotypic urban blend of "development" and decay, he obtained métier for art.

Beginning in 1985, Vaadia turned his efforts toward figurative motifs executed solely in stone. At this point the orientation of the work became more vertical, paralleling human stance. Retained from previous efforts was the utilization of gravity as a force in maintaining stability. For these body-based forms, his methodology entailed stacking gradated rock sheets in a formation suggestive of individual stones modified by chisel-marked surfaces. By chipping away unwanted rock, Vaadia took advantage of the way nature layers sediment. Using traditional tools - hammer and chisel - he molded each single stone to suit the whole composition. As a result, this work reflects sculptural techniques which parallel natural transformations in stone. The artist's stratification of stones echoes natural conversions of matter.

With this figurative work, Vaadia has achieved a sense of vitality through elemental positionings of isolated figures. With initial pieces such as Avner and Shaul, he monumentalized the single figure in a manner reminiscent of Egyptian artisans portraying their king-god pharaohs. The feeling attained is one of formality, dignity and solemnity. This is portraiture as personification of noble princely traits. Simplicity and lack of individual depiction indicate supernal importance and enigmatic presence.

In the latter part of the eighties, Vaadia introduced second and third figures into his work. Among these are Maakha and Rehavam and Asenat and Yosef of 1988. Here he chose to represent a sense of closeness and integration; in some a single stone is used for a composition of multiple figures. His representation of these couples conveys a feeling of merging between man and woman or of love's linkage.

Also of this period are Omri and Ah'av and Lea and Dina, signifying the independence and ties, respectively, between parent and child. In the first case, a boy stands confidently apart from the proud, seated father. The latter example involving a mother and child signifies a sheltering, nurturing maternal presence in relation to the dependent offspring.

A prophetic work form this time is Shimshon and Delila Important here is the artist's inclusion of a column between male and female forms, Currently, Vaadia has been experimenting with the idea of including structural elements into his work, thereby joining sculptural and architectural components. Additionally, this work points forward to the artist's recent interest in expressive environs for his figures. As the man's orientation is ninety degrees apart from that of the woman, these two appear engrossed in separate thoughts. They seem less a couple than two individuals casually related by circumstance.

Environmental contexts occur prominently in Rivqa and Esav of 1991. In this updated portrayal of mother and child, Vaadia maintains the idea of parental protection while introducing new features. Now a boulder serves as a seat-support amid a circle of stone chips that establishes territory for the sculpture. Typically, the artist saw large rocks such as this one being pulled from the earth during a recent excavation of the street in front of his Brooklyn studio. Realizing their potential for his work, he immediately acquired several with a small fork lift. In this instance, the boulder effectively adds to feelings of repose, solidity and gravity.

Likewise, Evyatar, 1991, is expressive of the peace and serenity that arises form the experience of a human being in consort with nature. Again, the seated figure appears to be supported by the boulder, knees drawn up within a defined circumference. This compressed area heightens a sense of contemplation. Compared to earlier work involving single figures, there is a new sense of relaxation. Portrayed now in harmony with its immediate surroundings, the figure has become less rigid in feeling. As opposed to the earlier isolation of the figure, there now occurs an enhanced feeling of the human being participating in the external world. The soft contours of the boulder echo the comfortable posture of the figure and emphasize its repeated gradual curves. Full, swelling forms suggest sensations of restfulness.

In fact, the progressive evolution in this artist's work form simplicity towards informality and tempered elaboration might be related to the transition in Greek sculpture form kore through classical versions of the figure, all of equal beauty and interest.

In establishing the intrinsic qualities of Vaadia's work, comparison can be made with the oeuvre of English artist Henry Moore. Both artists have worked with figurative themes such as the single figure and the family group to create monumental statements of human existence; both have integrated voids and caverns. The resultant sense of interpenetration contributes to an expression of existential angst. On the other hand, Vaadia's emphasis is on fullness and solidity of form through which he depicts the human being in relationships and as self contained centers of the universe, in repose and reverie.

Without individual details or features, Vaadia's figurative motifs succeed in conveying powerful emotional content. His distinctive ability occurs in creating a sense of human serenity and dignity. His figures convey human nature as earthborn yet noble. Out of stone, he succeeds in constructing semblances for sublime moments in human existence. Using nature's way, this artist fashions a beauty of form and of spirit.


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