The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jan 11, 2011

Sculpting a More Perfect Union

Posted by Anne Tschida

Contemporary sculpture is like performance art – when done well by a serious and skilled practitioner, the art can blow you away, take you to that rarefied place that only certain triggers in life ever can.

When done poorly and sloppily, it hurts the eyes and brain.

Unfortunately, while Miami has a lot of talent, not much of it is dedicated toward good sculpture – too often it is the latter, painful kind.

Fortunately, one of the exceptions is Ralph Provisero. His sculptures, often large and forged from heavy materials, are delicate, lyrical and fascinating to contemplate , more so than many much smaller and physically less imposing works. In Provisero’s exhibits, little is left to chance, and nothing is left half-done – his pieces are as precisely placed and lit as they are crafted, making them a true pleasure in a tiresome world where artworks can look as hastily thrown together as the last-minute shows they are in.

In good sculpture, the hand of a steady and skilled draftsman is present as well, and both sculpture and drawing (though not too much, and not heaped on top of each other) is featured this time in the solo show from Provisero opening at the University of Miami’s Wynwood Project Space on Jan. 8, for Trinacria. Nine works, some crafted from damaged welding curtain’s from UM’s art school, take us from the drawing, to the model, to the final form, also taking us on a journey from inception to installation.

Almost as interesting as the show promises to be, is the conceptual journey Provisero traveled to get here. As he tells it:

“I was working in the studio one night and I stopped to take a break; while sitting there I noticed the welding curtains. They were battered, slashed and repaired with old tape. The tape marks appeared to me as a patterned one like I would draw myself for the beginning of a work. Still holding the soapstone in my hand from working before, I walked over and began to outline the patterns on the vinyl. That was it. I knew I had my drawings.

“So I bought the school new curtains, took the old ones, and began scaling them down to make the maquettes. Once the models were done, I made the large works. I knew they would be made out of wood because a colleague had given me a beautiful stack of reclaimed cedar.”

In the end Provisero fashioned three sculptures from that cedar: “Delicat,” which means delicate or light, “Tricotat,” which means knitted or interlaced, and “Ratatat,” that series of sharp, quick sounds. The three combine into a Trinacria, “an ancient symbol of Sicily … which has to do with the depiction of three as it relates to shape … the three capes of Sicily that the Trinacria represents.”

Provisero’s sculptures have been shown in the collections of the Lowe Museum and Martin Margulies, at Chicago’s Navy Pier and the Bass Museum, and his “Pietra Veloce” now resides on the UM campus.

“Trinacria,” through Jan. 22 at UM’s Wynwood Project Space 2200 A NW Second Ave.; 305-284-2543;;

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