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Lurch, Quiver and Fly 

Artist lets fly with current exhibit

Eric Anderson has been around Charlotte since bovine outnumbered bankers. Anderson has been the iron man of visual art in Charlotte, quietly churning out work which any world-class city would be proud to call its own. He's been well received and well collected, with little fanfare since his arrival at UNC-Charlotte in 1967. Notice of Anderson's continuing presence and passion is touted, once again, with his show of sculpture at Joie Lassiter Gallery.

Quiver is the name given to this show. After wandering these walls for a few minutes, the genesis of the name emerges. Behind the gallery desk are three 5' arrows and 1/2" mahogany dowel rods with conical steel heads. The back end of each rod is painted with a gold feather bonded in an end slot, bound with a gold collar.

These stylized arrows allude to archery. A quiver is that soft tube Robin Hood carries on his back to hold his arrows. Hence the title. But what's in a name? The name of the show is no more than a tag on an invitation. The essence of this work is without title or reference to any obvious thing — the wall pieces are as close to exclusively self-referential as you will see in any art these days.

A confession: I've always viewed the school of art Eric Anderson hails from — Constructivism — with the squinted eyes of a Philistine. This kind of art has always caused me anxiety, has always moved the carpet under my feet a little bit. Perhaps the title Quiver refers to the tremor in my hand.

Anderson's art is moored in the infancy of non-objective art, which was born in the volcanic firmament of early century Russia. To grossly simplify and condense the evolution of modern (Western) art, the progression went something like this: Cubism -> Futurism -> Suprematism -> Constructivism, with a little concurrent Neo Plasticism and Bauhaus elbowing in from Holland and Germany. Anderson's work heralds back to a new century conviction which proposed art without subject matter produced a purer aesthetic.

Constructivism emerged along with the Russian Revolution, in a small window of time which allowed, even encouraged, innovation, experimentation and radical New Beginnings. Constructivism opens with the premise that art, the purest art, is non-referential. The only agenda this art brings to the table is theory. Farmhouses, faces and sunsets are replaced by triangles, rectangles and circles. Materials of the new age — celluloid, nylon, Plexiglas and aluminum are adopted and became more signposts for man's successful mechanical subjugation of nature. Hallelujah.

The Constructivists were optimistic, misdirected and, sadly, correct. The natural world was under siege by man's early century technological advances, but not always happily so. Man's mechanized dominance had a dark side. Eric Anderson's work escapes the now politically incorrect boast of the machine age's dominance over nature. His works manage to embrace the pared down design quality and material integrity espoused by the early century Russian artists without embracing his predecessors' hysterical theories or their draconian rules of engagement. Anderson infuses lilt and flow into the inflexible machinery of Constructivism.

The Constructivists pushed the objects off the canvas and pulled unheard of materials into the artist's studio. Eric Anderson is a latter day practitioner of this same aesthetic, but his pieces in this gallery don't tote the banner of the non-objective reductionist. For me, these pieces refer to "things."

I try not to think of things, but impure images invade. I see sails and rails following the slow curve on the bow of a sailboat, and fabric pulled taut by wind. The theory is porous and my subject-seeking flesh is weak.

Two wood masts curve through the center of "Golden Dream Quiver." Saturated sails of color stretch and puff between the wooden armature, patterns repeat, shapes are wed edge to edge. Paint is thickened over bent sheet wood surfaces, latex surfaces as gelatinous as recently molten lava.

The hand of the craftsman runs through each of these pieces like an unconscious drive; the man could not be sloppy if Jesus insisted. Long curved laminated rails, varnished to a glossy sheen, gently curve through all the work, edges of disparate materials fit like rubber tires inside steel wheels. When Anderson taps his meticulous inner boat builder, he is precise and patient, and each element is fitted with the eye of the craftsman. His boat builder makes these pieces float, but his artist — his illogical, asymmetrical, non-utilitarian self — gets the pieces off the ground.

"Quiver Torso III" is the only explicitly human image. Two bent and laminated oak and pine arcs traverse like six-foot X's across the gallery wall, reducing limbs to slight arcs, like a bow pulled taut to release an arrow. Curved planes of blue, yellow and tawny reds knit the curved wooden armature together like sinew bonding bones. It is, in my literalist eye, a woman leaping with arms extended to the heavens, like a dancer running across a stage.

Three pieces on one wall all resemble prehistoric birds of prey diving toward the concrete on the gallery floor. "Quiver Surge I," "II" and "IV" are each the size of a blue heron, each equipped and hunting with a lance-like bill. Ribbed armatures of bonded and bent wood are fleshed out with winged fields of color, gently bowed like a sheet in the wind. The bowed fields of color are painted gummy blues, yellow and blood or earth red.

There has got to be a certain thrill in taking this much care to make something this beautiful and useless. It's only here to look at, to launch the viewer; to take flight, to dive, float and fly. Ain't it grand? Saying it out loud sounds flaky. Still, it's hard to walk away.

All these pieces are theatrical and self-consciously dynamic. They're like a fantastic story well told, a story told primarily for the benefit of the teller, so he can see the expression on the face of the receiver. He wants to enthrall and awe. It's his gift.

Eric Anderson's exhibit Quiver runs through July 15 at the Joie Lassiter Gallery, 525 North Tryon Street (11th floor gallery). For details, call 704-373-1464.

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