Article and photos by Daniel McGee

Randal Crawford’s new collection at the Saginaw Art Museum, “Ultrabrication,” opened March 29th to a steady flow of curious gallery visitors and fellow artists.

It’s no accident that many who attended the opening reception were impressed by the show’s size and scope; “Ultra” is a veritable world unto itself, featuring pieces large (a collaboration with Peter Clouse, 87: Continuum: 14, spans an entire wall) and small. The museum’s large space allows the pieces to both expand and coalesce.

The far-from exhaustive list of media includes ceramics, found objects, textile, graphite, giclée, and wood. The number of materials Crawford uses could be exhausting, but he manages his materials in a practiced, deliberate way—in this artist’s hands, extruded clay, handmade-paper, and colored pebbles are forms for certain feelings and inclinations, rather than sundries whose short-lived novelty would overshadow the art itself.

There are three key features to appreciating the show: process, process, process. Crawford re-contextualizes his Random Whispers clay leaves, paper Typography installations, urethane torsos from other shows by displaying them with newer pieces—their meanings are always on the move. And other pieces refuse to settle down or stay fixed—in Passage, hanging smoke-stained papers sway ominously with the movement of passers-by; in Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows,” a pile of colorful granulated salt already signifies natural decay and erosion (Crawford treats this work as an experiment, happily anticipating how it might dissolve and scatter during the coming weeks).

Foreboding or joyful, many works are a kind of potential energy made visible, palpable. The show was and still is still is a site of feverish production (during the reception, the artist thanked the SAM staff for allowing him to not only work, but live in the exhibit space for the time leading up to the show’s opening).

It’s hard to look away from the back wall, where (what else but) twist ties have been sewn into rhombuses, inscribed with ornate stitching, and arranged geometrically. Perhaps Delta professor and classical guitarist Brad DeRoche’s performances for the opening night struck some chord in my head, but the individual designs (no two the same) of these Signature Quilt Tales offer rhythms and counter-rhythms to the display’s overall composition. Tension and harmony, chaos and order; it’s the lively interest in opposites can be found throughout the show. The clunky portmanteau of its title aside, “Ultrabication” is downright musical.

Where: Saginaw Art Museum

1126 N Michigan Ave Saginaw, MI 48602

(989) 754-2491

When: Through May 10, 2013

Museum hours are Wednesday–Friday, 10 AM–5 PM, and the 2nd and 4th Saturdays, 12 PM–5 PM

© Daniel McGee, 2013