On ViewKristen Lorello
Bayne Peterson: Mirage
October 18–November 12, 2022
“These things are BANANAS,” commented another visitor to Bayne Peterson’s Mirage on view at Kristen Lorello. He wasn’t wrong. Peterson’s sculptures (all 2022) are mesmerizing. Carving them from dyed plywood, and hewing them into soft, sinuous forms, the artist reveals psychedelic grains in the wood that, when joined seamlessly with other colors and patterning, develop deliciously trippy environments. While finished fully and colorfully in the round, the sculptures clearly have a front and a back and cast intricate dapples of positive and negative light and shadow onto the walls behind them, like a Hudson River Landscape-era David Smith meeting a Ken Price ceramic confection. Until I came right up to them, I couldn’t believe they were wood.
As the gallery’s press release notes, Peterson suffers—and possibly benefits—from two different strains on his visual perception: a type of ocular migraine called “scintillating scotomas,” in which blindspots appear in the vision and can create flashes between dark and light or sparkly color effects, and a “macular pucker,” which causes one of his eyes to see straight lines as wavy. These conditions must at least occasionally be exhausting and possibly even painful, as the title Thinking about Seeing Clearly suggests, but Peterson turns them to good effect, demonstrating in Macular Pucker what the results for him might appear to be. The most anthropomorphic of the works in the show, Macular Pucker juxtaposes straight or “normal” vision through a round hole on the sculpture’s left, which permits the wood’s grains to run in orderly lines, and puckered vision on the right, for which its scalloped hole creates ripples and wavers in kind.
Other sculptures conjure images of intricately composed landscapes. Untitled reminds me of a tree in full bloom with its red, blue, green, and orange almost-checkerboard interrupted by oval magnolia or persimmon leaf voids. It sits on a base with three hollows filled with tiny turned-wood egg forms. Another Untitled, a green and orange vertical construction with wide bands of magenta, recalls coral reefs seen from above the water, not least because it is installed at just above waist height. This impression is further driven home by the sculpture’s swaying outline and reiterated as the wood makes wavelets on its surface. Magenta is a perplexing color in the artist’s lexicon: it has no wavelength and therefore doesn’t strictly exist for human beings (our visual imaginations fill in the gaps and we “see” it), but it might be observed by creatures that possess more opportunities for seeing ultraviolet light, like mantis shrimp, an animal whose vision Peterson has imagined in earlier work.
Precursor I features two upright forms perched on a pillowy base. They respond to each other’s curves, swooning back and forth as if in a dance. The squarely vertical grains might make them feel staunch and upright, but the forms’ curves are also echoed by grains that billow themselves. Those colors then serve somehow almost as contour lines and softening agents, while also leading us to believe we see built-in highlights. It seems to be liquified and buffeted at the same time. These singular small sculptures evoke our world and others while creating ecosystems by and for themselves. They could easily occupy pride of place in an early modern treasury or Wunderkammer or as part of a particularly groovy holiday tablescape.