Twenty Years in Plattsburgh, 1985-2005

Photo of sculpture, Embracing Reason
Embracing Reason, 1998, steel, 120" x 48" x 144",
Photo Credit: David Waginaar, Chicago Pier Walk

Bullet Don Osborn
Bullet Introduction by Edward Brohel, Museum Director
Art Department at Plattsburgh State

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Essay by David Colosi
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While these works continued to draw from ancient and art historical references - Political Anthem from Gauguin's Vision After the Sermon which interprets Jacob wrestling the angel, and Should I Turn Away from the Venus de Milo - they also marked double meanings. Should I Turn Away leaves the end of the question open: "From what?" Ultimately, the theme is Responsibility: does the artist turn away from such political events as these or does s/he address them in his/her work? At the same time, does the artist turn away from his/her former art practice to adjust to the changing trends and times? Osborn attacks these questions directly and profoundly in a forty-foot accordion sketchbook entitled Endless Series of Thought. The product generated by this sketchbook then takes shape.

Just as, earlier, Osborn solidified his commitment to steel as his primary material, the period of study proposals and monumental works after 1994 marks a decisive recommitment to sculptural objects. By abandoning installations, Osborn combines the singular formal aspects of the early '80s work with the metaphorical and narrative ideas of the early '90s. Unlikely, yet lucrative, comparisons to the recurring metaphors of the Iranian-born sculptor Parviz Tanavoli and the themes of Roni Horn come to mind.
The metaphor of a passageway, for one, reappears in many works from this period: Timeless Cradle and Axiom; The Distance Between Right and Wrong and Signs of Origin; and Embracing Reason. Geometric symmetry fosters a dialectic where passing between right and left, right and wrong, produces the same view from either side. In minimalist and analytical forms, these works stage a wrestling match with political and philosophical angels. On and in his own terms, "profound shapes" is Osborn's answer to the content/form dualism which preoccupied Postmodern art in the '90s.

Wrestling out of analytic conundrums and into personal and metaphysical space, the works since 2002 house more stairs, hallways, and passages. Awaiting Dawn's Early Light is the architecture of an insomniac waiting for nature to flip the switch between darkness and light. Fading Echo stands as newly constructed ruins, empty with hospital sterility. Uninhabited by the cliched narratives of Juan Munoz, these sculptures put construction and form on the stage of self-reflexivity. Also not so far away, Jorge Luis Borges could have rewritten the repetitions of history in these ancient temples. While Osborn admits these works swing to the side of the personal and emotional, the pendulum always returns to the other extreme.

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