Bryan Hunt’s exhibit at Guild Hall is a study in contradictions and the subtleties of form, even when the sculptures top out at 12 feet tall and 600 pounds. The last chance to see the show is this weekend, and it would be a pity to miss the sculptures, which have come into being in his studios in East Hampton and New York City and are regularly shown nationally, but not as frequently here.
Rather than come at the medium from the traditional expression of realism or the antiseptic, self-important geometrical profiles of classic minimalism, Mr. Hunt appears to find the hidden and ephemeral spaces between natural forms and gives them their own reality.
The show’s theme of water is obviously apt for the region and for the summer. Its abstracted Expressionism in three-dimensional form is a good foil for the hyper-reality expressed by Clifford Ross’s photographs in Guild Hall’s other gallery. Mr. Hunt sculpts his water themes in flowing forms, but they are often quite reductive. There is no harking back to the ample river goddesses of Picasso’s neo-classicism; the structures are often quite angular and sinewy.
They often refer to things, whether it’s a quarry or a mythological figure, and quite possibly they are the subject of previous sculptures from other hands in other centuries.
In “Daphne,” an 11-foot-high bronze from 1979, there is just a suggestion of a possible struggle as the form bows as the human figure might before it stiffens into the hardness of a tree trunk and limbs. In “Charioteer,” the viewer understands the form without actually knowing why. The ideas are suggested only slightly but once in the mind are hard to erase.
Seeing all of the tactile building up, massaging, and gouging of material, it is difficult not to think of certain predecessors. When Auguste Rodin comes to mind, it is a drawing on the wall that rewards you. Titled “Balzac,” it is the barest of minimums in terms of communicating that original subject’s shape, but all one needs to know about Rodin’s sculpted form and how its mass displaces space comes through in the simplest of outlines.
Then, as if a light has gone on, you re-experience all of the monumental forms, looking for other hints or unappreciated angles or voids that might be asserting themselves in Mr. Hunt’s work.
Then again, it begins to no longer matter. The works stand as their own compositions, their fluid contours engaging enough not to require further context.
As grand as the waterfalls and other natural wonders can be, the lakes and quarries capture some other essential power, and their relatively compact size gives them further heft in perception. With incisions or rough cuts along the sides, the bronze pieces resemble the chiseled stone to which they refer, a postmodern game of mistaken identity and a co-optation of purpose.
The two lake pieces from the 1970s have their own mysterious qualities, looking in one case quite like water and in another more rock-like and barren.
If, as Mr. Hunt says, he treats water as a found object in these works, we are fortunate for his discovery. The exhibit runs through Sunday.