At once alien and earthy, synthetic and organic, Joel S. Allen’s hand-woven hanging sculptures call out to you: “Come closer.” From afar, their sinuous lines and bulbous forms resemble shaggy beehives suspended in space. Gathered in a cluster, they invite you to walk among them, to investigate their materials and their making in relation to your own bodily form. On the surface of one sculpture, hand-wrapped twine binds countless orange cylinders together in a frantic mass. As you look, you realize these are prescription pill bottles—everyday objects translated and transformed through the laborious handiwork of the artist.
Allen’s foregrounding of physical labor vitally charges the objects in his installation Hooked on Svelte. The obvious repetitive movement of the artist’s process evokes the traditions of weaving and woodworking, while the hand-forged copper hook harkens back to metalworking techniques that are thousands of years old. Creating objects that look to both the past and the future, Allen reminds us that the potential for unearthly beauty lies everywhere around us, waiting only for the touch of human imagination.