Good news! + new Essay

“Making Money”, seen below, was accepted into the “Art and Industry” show in Pittsfield, MA, for May 30th. Now I just have to build it.

This just in: Artist Jeff Perrot
wrote an excellent essay about my sculpture and the process. Here it is:

Karl Saliter’s Lightness of Being

Some sculptors work the sublime heavy. You know their names: Serra, DeSuvero, Smith – even Holt and Smithson and Kapoor and Irwin and Turrell can join the parade, for any lightness their work produces for the viewer is often bracketed by the sublimity of mass, their ponderous processes, and their overarching ambitions for transcendence.

Karl Saliter, on the other hand, works the sublime light. His stone and steel sculptures and granite and marble carvings occupy nature’s and man’s architecture with a touch that defies and transforms our presuppositions of these materials, lifting us upward with a kind of zen-like vertigo.

Encountered in a field, in the gallery round, or as one of the artist’s recent architecture-defining wallworks, Saliter perches bulbous found and/or gently carved boulders of granite and marble atop or along spindly strings of thin steel bar. By placing volume, mass and line in gravity-defying relation to each other, he challenges viewers to reconsider their own relation to the solid earth and open sky.

Even in his large-scale outdoor work, Saliter manages to extract the weight from the stone. The artist’s often giant boulders seem to be injected with pure helium as they reach skyward, tethered gently and whimsically by the long, slightly bent, curving steel poles that seem—rather than supporting them—to be pushing them along, pointing them to a stellar destination.

But the artist isn’t simply turning the heavy into its opposite, or reversing the poles of gravity; he’s turning it inside out. In fact it seems his materials never had the weight and mass we usually ascribe to them. One trip to river’s edge with the artist will show you why.

Ellsworth Kelly once said, “…seeing is drawing…” For Kelly, an artist’s sensibility, approach, sensitivity, and symbiotic relation to his subject are most of art’s battle – the hand, then, simply and easily follows, virtually tracing what the soul has already blueprinted.

Intuiting Kelly’s hard-won knowledge, Saliter draws his stones from the bed of the river coursing its way along the front of his Connecticut home, using a divining rod of the soul perched midpoint between Duchamp’s non-choice and Picasso’s seizure of the moment. This is the point of lightness from which Saliter sees his stones not only as they are, but also in their potential for transformation. Collaborating with million-year geology, the river current’s sculpting craft, and past human forces that altered his terrain, Saliter works for the perfect catch – the stone or stones that catch him off-balance, dictating to him their right to art, to receive from the artist the alchemical work that will set them free.

And so the work begins, from drilling the stones to the choice, calibration, bending, and placing of the metal rods, to the careful balancing of line and mass with nature’s context and man’s presuppositions of what they are and what they mean. Saliter’s process builds no mere gestalt, no simple reduction of the parts to an easily-sought whole. For Saliter the work doesn’t end until he finds in his placement of elements, his attachment of parts, an expansion of consciousness that resists the temptation to simply, formally classify them.

As the elongated metal rods bend precipitously, as his stones lean or reach awkwardly away from their gravity line, lurching with unseen force toward some unidentifiable pole, and as a grouping of elements hangs precariously between chance scattering and formal choice, Saliter’s best works work an uncanny effect on viewers, forcing a spiraling question about the very ground we take for granted.

So, as we list and feel ourselves beside and above ourselves in confronting Saliter’s interrogation of nature’s law, unable to grasp again the gravity we relied on a moment ago, our precious attachment to the weight and mass our bodies depend on becomes clear. In the final analysis, Saliter seems to gives us no choice but to let go of our sandbags, and feel ourselves embraced and overcome by a vertiginous drop into the heavens, inverted and reinvented in our relation to air.

Jeff Perrott


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