Would I? Wood Eye!

A respite from tales of cockroach infestations and unrequited love. Instead, here are two gallery hops. You can (and should) click on your favorites for detail.

I get too wrapped-up in the city and forget that great art can be found pretty much anywhere. I was enjoying some one-on-one time with my daughter on Asbury Park’s boardwalk on a sunny Sunday afternoon and stumbled across these beauties.

mellon 1

mellon 2

They’re made of wood and they’re life size.

mellon 4

They’re situated in The Market on Fifth Avenue, a boutique co-op on the boardwalk. It’s a gaggle of little artisan shops under one roof. I know very little about the artist. Apparently, he came in one day, asked if he could display them and the owner said yes. Smart owner.

The detail is incredible. She’s weird and wonderful. The shirt looks like cloth

mellon 6

The girl behind the counter didn’t even know the artist’s name, much less anything about his work.

mellon 8

I finally found his name at the bottom of this piece. A Google search for Gary Mellon turned up a dead webpage but there are some other links. Apparently, he carves these from plywood in his Brooklyn loft. [Edit: With thanks to Lame Adventures. Here he is.]


I tried not to put my filthy hands on them but it’s tough. It’s one of those pieces that begs to be caressed. The wood is smooth and cool to the touch.

mellon 12 mellon 10

As I said, there’s virtually no information at all out there on this guy, which is pretty amazing when you consider all the information avenues on the internet. Artists are terrible marketers. It’s the downfall of many of them. Get this guy a gallery rep! It made me wonder how many other great artists are out there that I’m unaware of.

I love neon lights. They conjure a certain old-timey feeling. I used to love seeing neon lights reflected on a rain-soaked Manhattan street at 1:00 a.m. The fact that you don’t see them anymore makes me feel like something worthwhile is gone. Neon lights are now LED. Bookstores are Amazon. The counter at Howard Johnson’s is now Starbucks.

Kosuth 2

So I got a big thrill out of Agnosia, an Illuminated Ontology, an Installation by Joseph Kosuth at the Sean Kelly Gallery in Chelsea.

Kosuth 5

It was a career retrospective with works produced from 1965 to present. I think having them all gathered together in one room made it even more of a spectacle. I wondered if I would’ve enjoyed it as much if I’d seen them individually mounted? They say less is more, but that’s not always true.

Follow the branches of this tree. The flow makes sense. It all springs from water. I like how he arrives at ‘vodka.’

W.F.T. #3, 2008

Kosuth 8

Five Colors, Five Adjectives, 1965 Kosuth 10

Kosuth 11

This one, Five Fives (for Donald Judd), is from 1965 and the earliest piece in the show. Each review and article I read highlighted this piece. I wonder what set it apart from all the others so that it deserved special attention?

Kosuth 3

Mounted on the ceiling beams throughout the gallery were the names of famous people who either were born in 1968 or died in 1968. You can see them if you scroll up to that first gallery shot. It’s an eclectic gathering.

1968 3

1968 2 1968 1

1968 71968 81968 6 1968 5 1968 4

1,2,3,4, 1993

Kosuth 6

Yes, that’s an illuminated Calvin and Hobbs comic. I wonder if Bill Waterson knows about this or if it’s just another piece of misappropriated comic art?

Double Reading #20, 1993

80 thoughts on “Would I? Wood Eye!

  1. These are wonderful. You’re not kidding those wood sculptures are lifelike. The clothing detail is incredible, and that’s just from pictures alone. Must have been a real treat to see up close.

  2. The Would I Wood Eye joke is one of my favorites. Looking forward to delving into this more, because I do that, a double-dipper. That joke is up there with the rope who walks into a bar trying to get served, who gets thrown out, and fluffs up his hair and says (‘no, I’m not that same rope you threw out the other day’), I’m (a)frayed (k)not….

    • Ding! Ding! I was wondering if anyone would make reference to the joke. Here’s another oldie but goodie.

      An electrician walks into his house at 3:00 a.m. drunk out of his mind. His wife says, “Wire you insulate?” He says, “Watts it to ya. I’m ohm, ain’t I?”

      Thank you. Thank you. I’m here all my life.

  3. Loved this post. Got to see some incredible art. I happen to love wood. Just about anything made of wood is beautiful. The man is insanely talented. I can only imagine how many hours goes into making one of those wooden figures. And I almost forgot. The jokes were great and I’m grateful to have the privilege to read them and to laugh a bit.

  4. Apparently, according to Kosuth, it takes a Russian or Irish two steps to get to vodka and whiskey. But I do find the whole neon installation to be a little gimmicky.
    Not the wood sculptures, these are impressive.

    • I can see your take on the neon looking like a cheap trick. But I’m like a parrot. I like shiny objects. I strolled slowly through the gallery like a kid on Christmas morning.

      How does he get the wood to appear ruffled and creased like clothing? Look at those pants. They look like jeans. Maybe it’s not as difficult as I image but I’m impressed.

    • The woodwork looks so painstaking and labor intensive. The neon, less so. But I still like the lights. I’m so easily dazzled.

      The title is the punchline of a joke that I’ve forgotten. Something about a girl with a wooden eye.

  5. Those sculptures are amazing! I wonder how he got the folds of the clothing to be so lifelike. He could have made their faces prettier though – maybe he didn’t want lecherous men to be overly attracted to them. 🙂

    Didn’t Simon and Garfunkel have a song where they referred to neon lights? I don’t think they were being complimentary about them.

    • That’s funny you should mention the faces because I thought the same thing. The common thread that ran through all of them is that they all had giant, oversized noses. Like he had a nose fetish or something.

      When my eyes were stabbed
      By the flash of a neon light
      That split the night
      And touched the sound of silence

      I’d forgotten about that. It’s a nice line, don’t you think?

  6. Very cool, Mark! Thanks for sharing those beautiful sculptures here! Would love to see the artist’s process when he creates them. In the photo with the shirt, it looks like it was put together in pieces.
    I watched something similar (kind of) at the fair last summer – it was chainsaw art which I guess is considered performance art because you watch the artist create whatever they are making. Don’t know if I could get into that, though, due to the noise and smell of the fumes! But it was interesting to see, although I wish they would have made things other than bears and eagles!

    • Glad you enjoyed it. It looks like they were assembled with long strips of wood. I can’t be sure. I don’t know anything at all about woodworking. I suppose someone with a trained eye could look at these and know exactly what his process was but I have no idea.

      The Berea fair? I think I saw those dudes. Them are some manly men. They looked like the guys who used to take my lunch money away. That’s why they make manly things like bears and eagles. Have you ever seen ice sculpting? Nice but the stuff above it more impressive to me.

      • Yes – fair in Berea! You know, the one with the demolition derby and farm animals and arcades and elephant ears? lol
        And yes, those guys fit the lumberjack stereotype – that explains the animals I suppose! Are lumberjacks even a thing anymore?!
        I have seen ice sculpting downtown as well – it’s very similar. 🙂

  7. I’ve been back several times to look at those carvings. And each time, I’m impressed. The neon? not so much.
    And now I have Simon and Garfunkel earworm. You’ve made an old(er) lady happy. 🙂

    • They are kind of the mesmerizing, aren’t they? It’s an interesting juxtaposition between the two pieces. One cold and bright. The other soft with Earth tones. The first set definitely requires more skill and vision, I would say. I’m not sure that’s an entirely fair thing to say but that’s how I see it.

  8. Those wood sculptures strike me as gallery-worthy, too. My friend Milton refers to the fourth floor at MoMA as “the joke floor”. For example, they have leaning against a wall a ten foot tall plank that’s painted pink that’s called, “The Absolutely Naked Fragrance.” These sculptures are so much interesting. I also Googled Gary Mellon. Did you see this web site? http://www.garymellon.com/

    I’ve always been more of a fan of animated neon. When I was a kid there was a Hamm’s Brewery in San Francisco. On top of the brewery was a 13 foot tall chalice that would fill with golden rings to simulate the beer and white rings, the froth. I loved watching that glass empty and fill at night from the freeway. This was that sign: http://brookstonbeerbulletin.com/hamms-in-san-francisco/

    We saw The Royale. It was an excellent, completely absorbing play about boxing and race. Even though there is no actual fighting on stage, the way a match is conveyed is very poetic and riveting. I highly recommend it. It’s a terrific piece of theater.

    • It’s curious that I had to approve this comment. Clearly, you’ve been here before. Did you chang ISP’s or something?

      I didn’t see that website. Thanks for the research. The copyright at the bottom of his landing page says 2014. I hope that means he just hasn’t updated his footer and hasn’t abandoned the site. Any one of those pieces would look fine in MoMA or the new Met in the old Whitney building. We should start a petition.

      Thanks for the Hamms link, too. Neon can seem cold but it can be magical, too. Have you ever seen a neon light when on a hallucinogenic? It can amuse for a long time. I hear.

      I’m DYING to see The Royale. My pal saw it over the weekend and raved as well. It’s on TDF but I don’t have a free night. I’m afraid it’ll open, get raves, and the TDF discounts will dry up. I saw Buried Child and it was really good. My obstructed seat was fine. I saw pretty much everything. The one next to me was a bit more blocked. Row C. He also saw Red Speedo and loved it. So that’s another one to list. He stood in line Saturday and got tix for American Psycho for $19.96.

      • Maybe this is the first time I commented from my new digs? I thought it was odd that it wasn’t automatically approved, too.

        Good one about looking at neon while tripping – not that I would know what that might be about, either. (cough)

        We preferred The Royale to Speedo, but Speedo is 80 minutes and Alex Breaux is excellent as Ray, the swimmer. Milton saw it last night and sent me texts afterward grumbling about asking, “What was the point?” The set is terrific. I thought Lucas Hnath’s The Christians was better storytelling, but I was still into Speedo. Maybe Milton was disappointed because it didn’t do much for his Gay Man Fatasizing?

        On Saturday Milton got to the Psycho theater at 8:30am and waited 3 hours to get us tickets. He said the line was crazy long wrapping around the block and it was real cold. We’re seeing Buried Child in partial view seats tomorrow. Southern Comfort was cancelled due to an actor being ill. We were able to reschedule to later this week. The Public told me that all performances to it were also cancelled throughout the weekend. Wow, that’s a lot.

      • Oh…forgot to mention…Eclipsed is reviewed in the Times this morning (glowingly, of course). It sounds so dreary I couldn’t even get through the review. I’m sure as hell not going to kill an evening by sitting through it.

  9. Curious that those sculptures are made of plywood….as plywood is thin layers of veneer stuck together, so I’m pondering if the artist stuck loads of ply sheets together and then started carving… or whether they’re partially hollow and steam bent. Anyhow, I like them. And I like neon.

    • I’ve been trying to imagine how he did these. What’s the process? I thought plywood came in thin sheets. So how did this happen? I can’t picture it. You can bend them with steam? Is that what you’re saying? Neon, I understand. But the wood has me flummoxed.

  10. The sculptures are so interesting! And god, I love neon. I get excited every time I still see a neon sign, because it reminds me of days of yore. Can we go back to those signs and that time?

  11. Wow! I’m totally dazzled by all this. I just got my art fix. I wish I could see it all up close. The wood pieces are amazing. I can’t believe how much the clothes look like real clothes. How did he do that?! And the neon is cool. You’re right that we don’t see it so much anymore. I never would have thought about that. It’s interesting to see these individual names of people born in 1968, because that’s more or less my group. I wonder how he chose them. And then the lives of people who have come before. It’s an interesting perspective.

    • Those statues were a gigantic surprise. And gigantic. I was walking up and down the boardwalk with my 9-year old and we just strolled into this store and…BAM. Right in the forehead. I stared at them for too long and felt awkward. You’re the first one to comment on the names. I thought they were tremendous fun. What an odd gathering. There you go bragging on your youth again…

  12. Amazing woodwork! I love your first picture best, where they are more sillhouetted, then you can really appreciate how lifelike they are, and the real movement in them. I’m always blown away by amazing talent.

    I like neon lights too, there’s always a slight raw seediness to them, and I like that.

    • Yeah, that guy, whoever he is, has got skills. I love their windswept hair. They really do look like they’re walking out the door. I should commission one of ME. And ‘seediness’ is right. Thanks for the perfect adjective. Neon = pool halls, bars and pizza joints. My comfort zone.

  13. Those are staggeringly good. Even from here the clothes look real! How is this sculptor not seeing his wares for trillions when other shit is? Get me a neon light saying,”What’s wrong with the world?”

    • Good and so big. Think big! It is kind of depressing when you see that I’ve posted auction results that included millions spent for sinks and stacks of newspapers when you see quality work like this go underappreciated. No fair.

  14. You will never be bored in NYC. I like these kind of art exhibits. How do you find these? As usual there is always something in your posts that I can directly identify with. A Donald Judd was my neighbor twice, once as a child, the second as an adult, in completely two different areas of the town. My brother was born in 1968, 18 years my younger, same parents, he passed in 1999. Amazing wood sculptures. Thank you for the pics.

    • Amen to that, brother. You won’t be bored and, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a lot of cash. Don’t get me wrong…you can have a lot more fun WITH cash than WITHOUT, but it’s not a strict requirement. Do you mean to say “A” Donald Judd was your neighbor, or “THE” Donald Judd was your neighbor?!

  15. I love neon too — there’s something so seductive and artificial about it. I was really happy to be sent details of a one-day introductory course in making neon art. Until I read the bit about it costing £400.

    • Neon lights can hurt your eyes, especially if you’ve been out all night. There’s a neon light graveyard in Las Vegas. All the old signs from the 50s-70s. I hope to make a pilgrimage there one day.

      • Neon from the fifties?? Wow, that is incredibly old. I went to a Donald Judd exhibition in London about ten years ago and they said that even work from the 70s is very difficult to handle, and will expire any moment now.

  16. Sadly the world is full of great writers and artists that we’ll never hear of, consider yourself lucky to have found those sculptures cuz they’re fecking amazing, i don’t know how i wouldn’t touch one, like how i used to rub the Buddha bellies at the Cleveland Art Museum, i’d wait and wait and for a brief second to touch a thousands year old piece of stone, wonder if you still can? wonder you i never got tossed out?

    • Many, many years ago I saw a play with Edie Falco. Didn’t know who she was but thought she had talent. Right after that, I saw another play with Paul Giamatti. Another complete and total unknown. Now they’re names. But I wonder how many great actors (writers, musicians, painters, etc.) fade away and no one ever hears about their work. I can’t remember any other actors in those plays. The arts are a fool’s errand but people can’t help themselves.

    • My daughter loved them, too. How can you not?! I just got an email from the artist thanking me for the post and inviting me to his gallery to see his new stuff. I might take him up on it.

      Hey! You used ‘serendipitous.’ Don’t use them fancy $5 Chicago words around here. They send me straight to Google.

  17. Gonna have to agree with everyone – those wood sculptures are knock-outs. Feels like they’re real and telling stories. I wish I had that kind of talent – can you imagine, being able to produce something like that?

  18. Those sculpted girls win everyone’s hearts. What a shame you are so stretched you don’t have time to meet him and help him to further his career or even just write a piece on him? Thanks for the photos.

  19. Holy shit fire those wooden sculptures are incredible! I hope that fella does get an art rep! … Neon lights will always rule. The end. It was awesome to see them all together. You’re right: sometimes less is just less.
    Awesome post – thanks for keeping us non-locals current on the big city : )

  20. Howdy! How you doin’? i want to touch wood… the smoothness… curves…. yum! Have had a mild neon fetish most of my life. Did you know there’s a sign museum in Cincinnati? Lots of old neon there… have played with the idea of learning glass blowing upon retirement so i could make my own, but that would require focus and dedication, and skill and… hey! look! something shiny!

  21. Lovely sculptures. they do show a kind of movement and vibrance…The comic, I hope Bill Waters consented he is very protective of calvin and hobbs ever notice how much you see of snoopie and how little you see of hobbs?

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