James Siena Labyrinthian Structures

This Exhibition Has Ended

September 5, 2015
December 20, 2015
In the Opatrny Gallery

James Siena, Class of 1979, is best known for densely patterned paintings, drawings, and prints that are based on strict self-imposed guidelines and tend to invoke systems and sequences reminiscent of computer software programs. Labyrinthian Structures presents a selection of his varied prints from the Museum’s permanent collection along with three recent bamboo and string sculptures to explore the dialogues between these different expressions.

Reaching beyond the confines of abstraction, Siena wants the audience to actively engage with his lines and shapes. As he himself has said, he hopes for the viewers’ eye “to take a walk.” In the case of sculpture, he wants “their eye to climb or fly around.”

In 2010, the Johnson was the first museum to exhibit Siena’s work in three dimensions. The exhibition, From the Studio, included two small toothpick and grape-stem works of the kind he has been experimenting with since the mid-1980s. Once Siena had access to CNC printing at Cornell in 2013 he began work on a group of large-scale bronzes, fabricated at the Walla Walla Foundry in Washington, based on his hand-size toothpick sculptures.

Siena’s recent bamboo and string sculptures most obviously relate to his two- dimensional work. In this exhibition, the strong conceptual and procedural connections become particularly apparent in the print Nine Constant Windows and the sculpture Iain Banks. “They are rigorously geometric,” Siena has said. “In the bamboo sculptures, I tend to work from the outside in, like I do in a painting.”


This exhibition was curated by Andrea Inselmann, curator of modern and contemporary art & photography at the Johnson Museum, and funded in part by a grant from the Cornell Council for the Arts.