Brutal Shields by The Love Armada

The Love Armada, a collaboration by Cybele Rowe and Kaye Freeman, presents Brutal Shields, a new body of work centered around formal transpositions and transformative confrontation.

The culmination of 60 years of collective work by both artists, the Brutal Shields function less as purely autonomous art objects in a Western sense than as talismans, imbued with protective and connective force. Shields are historically and aesthetically polarized as instruments of war and conflict, the projection of destructive force.

However, Love Armada position the Brutal Shields as an inversion of that trope, invoking both nurturing and protective maternal force against threats to the emotional heart, the seat of compassion and love, to create a channel for positive force. Much as ritual objects in many cultures create transformational spaces and experiences, Brutal Shields invoke the promise of connectedness to energy outside of bounded time.

The shields are extremely large, most over seven feet tall. Though generally based around a slab-like central form, each shield has variant contours, with appendages and protrusions of different sizes. Tumescent and sometimes suggestive, they call to mind highly charged fertility sculptures or fetishes. Various accoutrements adorn the exterior of each shield – bits of rope, nails, spikes, and nondescript organic materials – and a variety of textures are stamped, scraped, and incised into the surface.

The sculptures evoke organic, indigenous cultural objects in their form and coloring. Exuberant hues and patterns envelop each shield in a chromatic mix so rich it is almost audible. Patterns, motifs, and transitions are intuitive but also guided by narratives and insights drawn from a variety of mythic and folkloric source material.

Each shield is produced intuitively and spontaneously, with each artist working separately, without preparatory drawings or notes. Rowe sculpts each form before Freeman ever sees it, and then Freeman paints the shield. Sculpting and painting is done in the round, and the orientation of a shield may not be determined until the painting is finished.

Uninflected by irony or sardonic observations, Love Armada’s Brutal Shields present a vigorous, welcoming tumult of color and form, embodied in unapologetic, monumental sculptures.

Kerry Kugelman November 4 2015