Nicholas Fox Weber
Howard Scott Gallery New York
"It was spring. One morning Cosimo saw the air vibrating with a sound he had never heard, a buzz growing at times almost into a roar, and a curtain of what looked like hail, which instead of falling was moving in a horizontal direction and turning and twisting slowly around, but following a kind of denser column. It was a great mass of bees; and around was greenery and flowers and sun."
That description is from Italo Calvinos's magnificent The Baron in the Trees, his tale of an eighteenth-century Italian aristocrat who escapes his indoor world and flees to a "thick and impenetrable" wood, living in the treetops, viewing the world from a sea of "thick greenery." It perfectly conjures an essential element of Rebecca Salter's work and her approach. When we look at Salter's panels-the quintessential combination of tensile delicacy and steely strength, the Mozartian mix of lightness and certitude-we hear vibrations. The visible becomes audible; Calvino's sort of lovely and salubrious buzz occurs. Salter's private abstract universe has the infinite motion of a swarm of bees, the marvelous cohesion, the excitement of a hailstorm, the very subtle shifts between ethereality and denseness.
Calvino's Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò, moving from branch to branch in his new world, is "taken up ... by the practical problems to be faced one by one, and by a fear ... of drawing too far away from familiar places." Salter inevitably has had moments of such fear, but courage has always won out. She left her native England to spend five years in Japan; she forsook the known world of urban London more recently to live-if not literally in, then among-the trees of Connecticut at the Albers Foundation. More significantly, in her work she has not even given passing interest to current trends or notions of acceptability or commercial possibility; she has, rather, only pursued her private, very beautiful, subtle yet lively universe.
"Cosimo, he did not understand why, felt himself gripped by a wild and savage excitement." It was from the swarming of those bees. It is the same sort of thrill that Rebecca Salter clearly feels as she gracefully, with intense practical know-how, with a mastery of material and a meticulous knowledge of the technical details, creates her splendid infinity of horizontal and vertical lines in a mesh that is her own invention, and allows shadows and comets and meteors and distant kingdoms to exist in tandem. To experience these wonders, we have to follow her course, and that of Calvino's Baron; we have to enter a new kingdom, and accede to its miracles. It is a marvelous journey, and once we are there, we are content to linger and contemplate and pay no heed at all to time-except as a source of visceral pleasures.