Thaddeus Mosley: Forest


For six decades, Thaddeus Mosley has taken felled trees near his home in Pittsburgh and transformed them into inventive abstract forms to create large sculptures, five of which are presented in Forest.

Made from walnut and created from 2015 onward, these works reward close looking. The range and expertise of Mosley’s woodworking techniques—carving, chiseling, and joining—are revealed as light shimmers along each work’s surface. From a distance, they stand together and unlock shapeshifting experiences before the eye. Mosley describes his compositional experimentation as the pursuit of presence, “the alchemy of turning something neutral into something alive.”

Jazz infuses the air of Mosley’s studio and inflects his improvisational approach. Unlike sculptors who meticulously plan, Mosley roughly chalks out lines on the surface of logs and then begins hand-chiseling and carving. This slow build-up yields surprises. Solid, monumental forms bend and stretch, revealing themselves as cavernous and delicate. Mosley echoes the context and quotations of jazz, whether by suspending geometric shapes in mid-air like feats of gravity or nodding to the Dogon stepladders of Mali with marks, grooves, and chevrons. From each vantage point, his commanding forms and life-size scale explore space, human existence, and our relationship to nature.

The title of this exhibition takes its name from artist Sam Gilliam’s description of his friend:

He was a jazz critic, post-man, father,

keeper of trees anywhere—

old trees, big trees, round trees, heavy trees.

Thad is not very big,

he is short and close to the ground.

Thad is the forest.

Thaddeus Mosley: Forest is curated by Jessica Bell Brown, Curator and Department Head of Contemporary Art at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

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