Donald Lipski · Sculptures

Donald Lipski has been called one of America’s most interesting and eccentric sculptors. As an example, an art critic pointed to one of Lipski’s best-known works, Gathering Dust, a huge wall piece that consists of hundreds of tiny objects – stray materials like matches, rubber bands and nails – that when grouped seemed to present an unnerving portrait of insects impaled on a gallery wall. This work, along with many other Lipski sculptures now on display at the JCCC Gallery of Art, is both humorous and deadly serious in its intent. 

Lipski utilizes disparate objects to create works which are disquieting and mysterious, yet strangely familiar. His New York studio is jammed with objects which he finds on the streets, surplus stores and trash bins. According to the artist, “The reason for having all this stuff around is instant access. If I’m walking down Canal Street or looking through a hardware store in Sweden, if there’s something that appeals to me, if I think something is substantial enough as an object, has enough resonance, I just bring it home, not for the sake of collecting, but to expand my palette.”

Lipski’s unique style was strongly influenced by the artists he met on a trip behind the Iron Curtain in 1979. The Bulgarian artists he visited were stifled by the repressive restrictions placed on their work by the Communist regime. Lipski not only rebelled against the rules, he reacted by making sculptures “without thinking about any of the rules that (artists) operate under,” he said. When he returned from Bulgaria he placed his disconnected telephone in the middle of his studio, along with a walker he had bought in Berlin and a dumbbell, shaped like a telephone handset, which he picked up in Bulgaria. Without deliberation, he placed the dumbbell on the phone. “I’m trying to make a new object; yes, they have formal properties, but they are secondary. My forms make themselves in some sense. I choose my materials and they direct the form,” states Lipski.

The 20 works included in the exhibition at JCCC range from the dramatic installation Fire Reef (consisting of a ring of steel buckets and a crate of broken glass) to the equally enigmatic Water Lilies #26 in which roses are entombed in preservative fluid and glass tubing. Lipski first gained attention when Gathering Dust was exhibited in 1978 at Artists Space in New York City. It received such an enthusiastic response that three months later, Lipski exhibited the installation at the New York Museum of Modern Art.

New York artist Donald Lipski was born in 1947 in Chicago. In 1970 he earned a BA from the University of Wisconsin and graduated with an MFA in 1973 from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

The gallery guide features an essay, “Donald Lipski Sculptures: A Life of Their Own,” by Rosetta Brooks, independent art critic/curator.

Lipski will lecture on his work at the opening reception Sunday, April 18 at 3:30.

We are most grateful to Donald Lipski for his generous assistance with this exhibition. Rhona Hoffman and Susan Reynolds of the Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Ramie Martin and Michael Solway of the Carl Solway Gallery and Dorothy Goldeen of the Dorothy Goldeen Gallery were instrumental to the organization of the show.