Lavergne's work in an exhibit called "Issues in Steel" at
the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts could be described loosely
as abstract sculpture.
While much artwork that falls under that description has a look that's
rigid and lifeless, Lavergne's odd, lively pieces are possessed of physical and
humor and energy.
I use steel plates and pipes as raw materials, but I re-form them rather than
just assembling the different pieces," Lavergne explains in a printed interview
that accompanies the exhibit, his first solo show in the Kalamazoo area. "In
the re-forming process, I follow my intuition. The ideas come through this process."
Lavergne, a Louisiana native and professor of art at Western Michigan
University since 1990, has invented his own process of steel re-formation, which
to a unique look and style. To ease the process of bending heavy pipe, he puts
rough, uniform slices into the steel, creating an odd, segmented, exoskeletal
look and revealing raw, silvery edges that enliven the surfaces and add to the
overall feeling of movement and energy.
Combining geometric shapes with variants on these unrecognizable
biomorphic forms, Lavergne creates pieces with a strong physical presence, sometimes
on such a
large scale they begin to feel like environments as much as sculptures.
One such piece is "Ceremony." A column of large, pipe-formed
diamond shapes rises up like a snake or a totem pole from a sprawling base of
pipe work and jutting geometries.
It's a great credit to Lavergne's skill as an artist and craftsman
that he can create pieces that convey such vitality and energy while working
in such a cumbersome
Unusual as it may seem for someone dealing with a substance as heavy
as steel, Lavergne uses a spontaneous approach in the studio.
I want a piece to be defined as I do it, as opposed to working out of some preconceived
and fixed idea," Lavergne states in the interview. "It's like jazz,
where you start with a musical idea and see what you can make of it. The decisions
you make will be judged by the problems that you create for yourself. Solutions
come when you find a way to leap beyond the problems you've created to get back
into the general flow of the piece itself."
Like the best jazz performances, Lavergne's improvisations often include a sly,
complex wittiness. One large piece in the exhibit looks like a cerebral steel
cartoon about its title, "Infatuation." A sprawling, snake-like form,
it zigzags, thrusts and coils around itself with knotty obsessiveness, a few
of its surfaces smeared with red like a heated blush.
Like a good jazz soloist, Lavergne is also loathe to repeat himself. In a departure
from his larger, bio-morphic pieces, he also includes some smaller sculptures
in "Issues In Steel." One of these works, called "Magnify," resembles
a collapsed triangle, while "Trio" is a Zen-like study in balance and
elegance created by three conjoined diamond forms.
Large or small, the works in "Issues in Steel" are both
and entertaining for viewers.