Sylvia Stone’s reliefs made me “turn upon myself” and look again. At first they appear cooly aware, smart in the sense of stylish. Made of plexiglass planes and bits of metal, they are lean and elusive—reliefs that know how to look . . . like “the latest” in reliefs. They know how to talk, too: they refer to Stella’s relief “paintings,” cite Morris’ mirror works, and converse generally on Constructivist relief. That is, Stone makes the important references at a glance (as far as pedigree and peers go) but summarizes, paraphrases—reviewing, rather than revising. I thought Stone recouped relief (a very recalcitrant form), by making it slick and easy to consume.
About here, I stopped. Wait, I thought, I am the smug one here. Looking again, I started over.
The reliefs are thoughtful, each an acute construction of discrete planes, at once complex and spare; pure, as Constructivist relief so often is. Each is a varied composition of many surfaces: the edges often look like drawn lines, and shadows often “model” planes. The reliefs are as much compositions as they are constructions. Add a mirrored plane or two and the sense of depth becomes vertiginous: the whole gallery is reflected. This is bizarre, given how self-reflexive relief usually is. But here many spaces are “represented” and it is as if these reliefs are grounds for images rather than distinct objects.
Not only do the mirrored planes “depict” the room, they also “portray” the viewer. As in Morris’ mirror works, the subject is combined with the object: the viewer becomes part of the content. So these reliefs are not as slick or easy to consume as one would initially think.