Cyrus Tilton's Labyrinth at Vessel Gallery 

The art space reopens with enigmatic figure sculptures.


In Bob Shaw's story "The Gioconda Caper," a copy of Leonardo's Mona Lisa is discovered — but with the hands altered. More discrepant paintings are found in a Milan cave, along with a toppled circular armature and a peep-holed sentry box. It's a proto-zoetrope; when the paintings are affixed to the spinning drum, the viewer watches a handmade film loop in which the lady alternately flashes a boob and smiles enigmatically.

Zoetropes, with their crude but magical flip-book/Rolodex animation, fascinate Oakland sculptor Cyrus Tilton, as demonstrated by his show of sculptures and related drawings, A Place In-Between. "Relation" depicts a man (whitened, like a marble statue) seated atop a stool; turn the crank, and sepia-toned watercolor paintings reveal the stoic subject executing a stiff-necked head roll. In "Revolution," a naked, blank-faced woman resembling a figure from Moore or Marini holds a mask up like a lorgnette; pivoting from her elbow are alternate rotating forearms and masks. "The Falling Dream" mounts a white oval sculpture of six slightly rotated faces with varying features (like double Trinities) atop the crank mechanism from a hand drill; the group head has been cut into independently movable eye, nose, and mouth discs, however, so that when it stops spinning, new faces emerge.

Tilton makes non-kinetic sculptures, too, but they continue his interest in movement, metamorphosis, and a rough-hewn magic. "Eugene" features a naked woodsman leaning on his ax atop a trunklike, cylindrical base while a bare-branched tree sprouts from his neck. "Run" depicts a sprinting animal in an homage to Watership Down's rabbit heroes; the animal's limbs have broken off, however, revealing the metal armature beneath, and the wire-supported crown that replaces its head seems as much bait (or metal-mouthed trap) as divine attribute. "Finding Balance" similarly plays with sculptural process, its rootlike metal armature humanized by its female torso and graceful posing. "High Hopes" places a horse on a wooden plinth atop a steel-rod cubic base; from its back springs scaffolding that supports a slab of hillside bearing three scraggly trees. Tilton, who fabricates sculptures for Richmond's Scientific Art Studio (e.g., the bas-relief of Barry Bonds' 500th home run), uses his anatomical knowledge and expert craftsmanship to good effect, but he also knows how to use material and process poetically: "It's about knowing when to quit ... when to keep your hands off. ... Once you start ... to mold it like life, it dies." A Place In-Between runs along with art jewelry by Eric Silva through June 5 at Vessel Gallery (471 25th St., Oakland). 510-893-8800 or


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will be removed.

Latest in Visual Art

Author Archives

Arts & Culture Blogs

Arts & Music -

Brighter Days for Dark Carnival

More from the Blogs

Most Popular Stories

Special Reports

The Beer Issue 2020

The Decade in Review

The events and trends that shaped the Teens.

Best of the East Bay


© 2020 Telegraph Media    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation