Layer upon layer of stained and unstained woods come together to create artist Joshua Abarbanel’s depth-ridden artworks. In the name of examining creation and impermanence, Abarbanel uses forms and natural patterns evocative of biological, botanical, geological, and even mechanical structures. Further inspiration is derived from fractals, accretive formations (the accumulation of particles into a massive object by gravitationally attracting more matter), and the Fibonacci sequence.
Abarbanel’s work is full of juxtapositions between made and grown, life and death, and microscopic and aerial perspectives. He refers to his sculptures and projects as “visual metaphors for archetypal relationships between people, individuals, and communities, and humankind and the planet.”
“For Cardboard City 2022, an exhibition and creative space from ReDiscover Center, I was invited to make a work in cardboard. Already I had been experimenting with using cardboard and making structural material from the copious amounts of paper and packaging materials that suffuse our daily lives,” he said. “The onset of the pandemic crystalized something that I had been wrestling with for a while: feeling inundated by, and guilty about all of this waste. These works in cardboard and pulped paper start to address my concerns about privacy, consumerism, consumption, and sustainability. I also love how the graphics and messaging on the boxes become part of the piece, making little poems and narrative vignettes.”
Germination 03 uses subtle highlights within the sculpture’s palette to help define the topography, while its individual shapes are loosely inspired by New York City’s five boroughs.
“As with much of my work, the sculptures in the Reef series are an outgrowth of my fascination with natural forms, which I return to again and again as meditations on the act of creation and the passage of time,” shared Abarbanel. “Sea life and plant formations, with their mathematical structures and marriage of amorphous and geometric shapes, have always captivated me.”
Mega Reef 02, seen above, was commissioned by Art in Embassies of the U.S. Department of State for the lobby of a new U.S. Embassy located in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Serving Sri Lanka and the Maldives, the dark pieces that form the foundation are inspired by some of the larger atolls in the Maldives. The larger, lighter-hued pieces of the outermost layers reflect the shapes and growth patterns of coral and animal life in the ocean region surrounding Sri Lanka.
“For Mega Reef 03, I also took visual cues from an old California buckeye tree that was formerly sited on the property. The smaller shapes around the perimeter of the piece are reminiscent of buckeyes – the shiny, nut-like seeds that are dark brown with a light-colored spot that gives them the appearance of a deer’s eye – and the hues of this installation also reflect pine, oak, redwood, and walnut trees, all California natives.”
Mega Reef 04 is installed just outside of Jackson, Wyoming. It pulls from the coast, where the owners moved from, and the nearby Tetons and native flora. The woods included are aspen, cottonwood, fir, pine, spruce, and willow trees, as well as huckleberry and lupine.
To learn more about Joshua Abarbanel and his art, visit joshuaabarbanel.com.