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H.A. Sigg's symmetry deems success

Exhibit Review (4 stars)

By Kyle Hayden
On April 14, 2014

Since January the work of H. A. Sigg has hung precariously on the walls of the Miami University Art Museum. The university calls the show, "Meditations, the Abstract Nature of H. A. Sigg."

Sigg's work has been called "cerebral and intuitive in its fusion of visual art and language, use of series and sets, and involvement with non-Western art and culture," by essayist Amy H. Winter, in her essay for the university's show.

Likened to other post-war painters seeking alternative intellectual grounds for their work, like the work of "color-field" painter Mark Rothko, or Barrett Newman, the suggestive yet delicate lines of Sigg's brushwork recall the human hand more readily than the departure of the hand from the work of Newman.

The mid-late period energetic work of Rothko is mirrored in Sigg's works. The treatment of color recalls Richard Diebenkorn. Diebenkorn was born just two years before Sigg, and through Diebenkorn practiced in the San Francisco Bay Area, they are like-minded in their departure from formal representation. In that, they share the study of the landscape in their new optical approach. In Sigg's "Night Blue" and "Echo I," there is a certain sense of color treatment, a lightness of the eye that mirrors his contemporaries. Restrained, yet intimate compositions seem to dominate Sigg's works in their whole, as well as a sense of attraction to symmetry.

Aside from his paintings, Sigg's sculpture is in an entirely different state. When viewed in photographs, the dark, industrial sculptures, which mainly stand below four feet in height, appear to be monolithic when scale is departed from them. When the matte black surfaces and rigid, confrontational structures are viewed straight on, their symmetry is apparent. It seems as though some thought in Sigg repressed from meditating on nature emerges in the form of ostensible mock-satire of the manufactured object and prefabrication in his three dimensional work.

The title the museum applies to the works: that the paintings are somehow "abstract" seems to border on false. Abstraction would imply the detachment from certain realities. Sigg's work appears to be factual information, derived in the eye and recreated on the canvas. His paintings are faceted in consciousness and distilled into definite, representative images. He attempts to recall the essence of moving water and refractions of light, as seen in "The Course of Rivers III." Sigg succeeds in that regard, and has certainly added another button in the expansive fabric of his time. Sigg's "legacy" - as the university and essayist Amy H. Winter regard it - reaches across two centuries, and we can only hope that he continues to work in his true, quiet way.

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