The work of Boaz Vaadia is among the most recognizable sculpture in today’s gallery, museum, and public art venues. His stacked-stone figures (solo, in family groups, sometimes with companion animals) are evocative and distinctive. A handsome book from Hudson Hills Press, with text by Wendy Steiner, Ivan C. Karp, Anthony Brown, and the artist himself, not only gives many excellent photographs of the work but also a great deal of context for the sculpture and a good sense of the origins and development of Vaadia’s art.
Karp’s very brief foreword is as good a concise analysis of Vaadia’s work as possible; here it is in its entirety: “Boaz Vaadia may be acclaimed as one of the handful of living artists who have successfully challenged 5,000 years of figurative sculpture to produce a consistent body of work of singular identity within the compass of classical composure.” The figures are indeed composed: There is none of the agony or distorted emotion of some recent figural work, and none of the existential straitness of, for example, Giacometti (nontheless an artist Vaadia admires). These figures are typically at rest, sometimes in meditative poses and sometimes seeming just about to step off in one direction or another. Within the groups, there is an emotional dynamic, but more of a bond than a conflict. And there is a profound sense of honoring ordinary people, rather than memorializing “heroes,” in all the work.
Anthony Brown’s text speaks of the harmony that one feels in the presence of the sculpture, but also of collectors who think of the works as friends, companions in their living spaces (and the public works elicit a similar response. And Wendy Steiner says that the calm serenity of the work is for Vaadia “the goal and meaning of art making.” She also points to the origins of his respect for nature in his family’s small farm and the origin of his sculptural interests in the ancient architecture and sculpture of his homeland, Israel.
Always interested in working with stone (though initially in abstract works), when he moved to New York Vaadia discovered (according to Steiner) discarded roofing tiles and broken bluestone sidewalk slabs, establishing a vocabulary for the stacked stones that Vaadia still builds and carves (though frequently now casting the result in bronze).
Not only in Steiner’s text, but also in short passages by the artist, accompanying a series of plates, the book gives a deep sense of not only the works themselves but also how they have developed from Vaadia’s life history and artistic vision. This is a distinctive book about a singular artist.
By Glenn Harper