THE current exhibition at the Yale Art Gallery demonstrates the evolution of working with wood on a lathe from a common industrial art - does anyone remember high school shop class, with its triumphs and catastrophes? - to highly creative art.
Many pieces belong to Yale; they are gifts from the collection of John and Robyn Horn. The first part of the exhibition is utilitarian objects, some of which were created following printed instructions in manuals. The first extended series is bowls and related objects that share in the streamlining that is associated with all forms of modernism.
A set. of salt and pepper shakers and a sugar container by David Ellsworth exemplify this. They were made in 1976, a time when he was also turning pieces that demonstrated the mastery of eggshell thinness for which he is known. He has made some definitely nonuseful vessels with a deliberately ravaged look to emphasize the thin walls.
A father and son, Mark Lundquist and Melvin Lundquist, are represented by bowls of a different order, characterized by a burly roughness. Their bowls, from the mid-1970's, have smooth interiors, but the natural shape of the wood has been kept.
Mark Lundquist also made one of the most monumental pieces. "Silent Witness #1, Oppenheimer" is a stacking of turned sections of walnut, elm and pecan and is intended as a reflection on Robert Oppenheimer, one of the inventors of the atomic bomb. This dedication caused controversy when the 85-inch tall piece was made in 1983, but so did Lundquist's artistic decision to unabashedly call this piece a sculpture by designing a pedestal for it.
The first wood turner here to demonstrate a sense of humor is C. R. (Skip) Johnson who is earliest represented by a "Mountain Man" and a "Mountain Woman" as well as a pig, all from 1965. Mr. Johnson's "The Itinerant Turner's Toolbox" (1981) is an open case of wood making tools that are themselves made of wood, but the most prominent object in the case is a keg labeled "beer."
Stephen Hogbin, is notable in the evolution of wood turning because he was the first person to break the integrity of an object through his willingness to cut and reassemble sections of wood. The lathe became an aid to quickly executing design ideas. The grand illustration of this is a functional chair characterized by rather playful scallop-like contours that is made this wav. Some of Mr. Hogbin's other pieces like a mass-produced