“Everything is water,” the poet Robert Creeley once wrote, “if you look long enough.” To Oscar Tuazon, trees are sculptures of water: bodies of water, as well as embodied water. And what better symbol of the growth and decay of continual transformation than the tree, which metamorphoses from seed to plant, to board, to paper, to ash? Tuazon’s second solo exhibition with Luhring Augustine gallery, “PEOPLE,” debuts all new sculptural work which captures the stages of metamorphosis simultaneously.
In Tuazon’s four-work Oil City cycle (2021), a twisted, gnarled trunk is pinned against a supine two-by-four in one piece, while blackened, charred wood grows out of a sanded plank in another. In Tuazon’s imagining, a tree need not even be wood: Tree of Smoke (2021), wrought of cast iron, mimics pillars found in the gallery, and contains a functioning stove at its base. A kind of dəqʷaled, or a carved house post of the Indigenous Pacific Northwest Coast Salish tradition, it marks the boundary between sculpture and architecture, the ordinary and the supernatural. The dəqʷaled might serve as synecdoche for the ecological toll of building in the modern world—and may help to elucidate the title of the exhibition. Though figuration is absent, the presence of people is deeply felt.
Oscar Tuazon, ON NO, 2021. Spruce and cedar, 108 x 30 x 4 inches.