Gay Outlaw


Art marked by holes, yet pregnant with meaning

San Francisco Chronicle

Saturday, December 16, 2022

by Kenneth Baker

Some years ago, Gay Outlaw began making sculptural objects penetrated by cylindrical holes. They looked as if the grid implicit in so much early minimalist art had gone corrosive and bored its way through her things from surface to surface.

New perforated objects appear in Outlaw's show at Anglim. The implication of the drilled holes changes depending on the form in hand, but they nearly always suggest an effort to make something that is at least half nothing.

We might see critique of minimalist theoretical probity -- a little venting -- in Outlaw's ventilation of solid geometry. Some pieces, such as "Three-Legged Intersection" (2006), appear to refer to hollow early painted plywood works by Robert Morris that pretended to solidity.

Outlaw adds a characteristic comic touch by painting on the exposed inside surfaces of the "Three-Legged Intersection" lozenges of cheery yellow -- like blots of sunlight -- corresponding to each of the holes.

"Camo Cube (Blue)" (2006) adds an out-of-register pattern of lozenge-shaped dots to the latticed perforations. In this condition, the object so buzzes under scrutiny as to intimate the onset of some distressing ocular symptom.

"Cube Study with Shadow" (2006), on the other hand, renders its own "shadow" solid through a felt-covered extrusion. The holes that penetrate this small object eat away so much of it that they generate a quite surprising artistic allusion: to a classic of Surrealism, Alberto Giacometti's "Cubist Head" (1934-35).

The undeniable oddity of Outlaw's work does not guarantee its energy, which emanates less from individual objects than from contrasts among them. Look at "Camo Cube (Blue)" next to the bronze "Scoop" -- which resembles both a giant cupcake and a model mountain -- and the contrast ignites real curiosity about what goes on in this artist's thinking.

Gay Outlaw at Refusalon

Art in America

July, 1998

by Betty Klausner

Bulky Black Hose Mountain, the highlight of Gay Outlaw's exhibition, stretched about 10 feet high, close to Refusalon's ceiling. This quirky, strange, just-right sculpture is large in size and ambition. Its distinctive graphic presence filled the gallery.

Alabama-born and now living in San Francisco, Outlaw (yes, that's her birth name) constructed Black Hose Mountain from more than a mile of dishwasher drain hose cut on the diagonal into 2-inch pieces and glued over an eccentric wooden armature so as to protrude at about a 45-degree angle. Each segment of hose is filled with plaster. When viewed from the room's entrance, the mountain's skin of white-cored black hose resembled polka-dot fabric. As you walked around the structure, the pattern kept changing almost filmically, provoking a range of associations: waves, feathers, organ pipes, even penguins. The artist has noted that the mountain's shape recalls the hulking posture of Rodin's Balzac.

Like Black Hose Mountain, Outlaw's "Chalk Hill" series of hemispheres of tightly packed blackboard chalks also explores illusion and the massing of many single units. Works in this series, two on the floor and one on a pedestal, all approximately a foot in diameter, look like little Op-art moons. A dot or oval of black paint on the end of each chalk stick makes it appear to have a black core; again, the surface changes as one moves around the piece.

These chalk objects relate to earlier works in which Outlaw layered pencils. She likes using common functional materials, enjoying the symbolic connotations of these old-fashioned communication and teaching tools. Trained in Paris as a pastry chef, she has also concocted sculptures out of fruit, sponge cakes and puff pastry. Springs in Caramel, made with cast caramelized sugar, was displayed in the gallery's lobby. Metal springs embedded in a gradually softening and dripping caramel cube created a strange sense of disintegration.

Chalk Cone also provided surprises. It at first looked like a bowl sitting on top of a stand. But walking around the white-painted wooden pedestal, one discovered its open fourth side, which revealed that the "bowl" was simply the top several inches of an elegant, elongated chalk-stick cone 40 inches deep, smoothly plastered on the outside and suspended within the pedestal.

Despite the labor-intensive nature of Outlaw's constructivist work, it has a delicious edge of playfulness that I hope she never loses.

Images - Biography - Artist’s Website