Reviews and Articles

<   I   >

James Fuhrman 
Robin Rice, November 2007

James Fuhrman’s new work opens a door to the unceasing discovery of the present. Fuhrman is an artist of the Earth in its most primordial, essential, life-giving form. Many of his larger sculptures invite a response as natural objects or places. Even physically small ones, like the welded steel structures in the “60 Quests” suggest a perceptually grand scale. This feeling for mass and rootedness emerges from Fuhrman’s strong sense of the earth as a geologic phenomenon –generating, supporting, anchoring, and continuing through deep time.

Brush paintings, sculpture, architecture: Fuhrman’s art emerges from his discipline and choice to set aside expressions of personality or commentary in favor of a more open and embracing resonance. While he considers the newest work ‘political’ this work transcends confrontation and argumentation and chooses to address human experience as a whole.  It does not assert itself as expressive of the artist’s personality; rather, it has been permitted to subsume its maker. Overtly informal, it is a direct communication: not based on conventional or personal symbols, signs or narrative.

Fuhrman’s judicious placement of sculpture in an environment is often compared to minimal Zen rock gardens like Ryoan-ji and the Japanese concept of ‘ma’ space.   This work evokes Shinto or Taoist associations, but Fuhrman rejects codified philosophies and systems of aesthetics. “I just AM ” he insists. Maybe that’s what’s Buddhist about him. He developed a personal routine of circular sumi drawing and later discovered that is a traditional Japanese practice called enso.  Fuhrman lightly describes himself as an “accidental Buddhist,” one who arrived where he is by simply following his natural bent. Perhaps he thus evades categories, contradictions, and catechisms.

A sense of scale also flows from Fuhrman’s sensitivity to the subtle details of things. Currently he is using cedar, a timber he particularly appreciates in its natural environment. “Each piece of wood has within itself a little universe; it’s part of the earth.” He builds substantial forms and finishes them by torching the surface, a process which exaggerates the grain. “I’m not trying to control wood, to put my will over it, but working with the wood and letting tell me what it wants to be.”


Philadelphia Inquirer, Victoria Donohoe

… Fuhrman has achieved a mood of stillness and quiet around this “Contemplative Space Installation” by giving careful consideration to placement of works in the gallery.


Ursula Ehrhard, The Daily Times, Salisbury, MD

Recent abstract works by six artists from the Philadelphia region are on display at Salisbury University through April 6. The exhibition consists of large-scale paintings executed in complex techniques and unusual combinations of media, plus an extraordinary oak sculpture by Jay Fuhrman.

Fuhrman’s sculpture, entitled “Suffering Passes, Having Suffered Never Passes”, is a communion bench — or, to be more precise, a curved bench and four fragmentary ones — arranged concentrically in the shape of a Japanese Zen enso, a sacred circular form that symbolizes completion, inclusion and universality, as well as emptiness and nothingness.

The sculpture is both functional and commemorative. In his artist’s statement, Fuhrman writes that he wants viewers to sit on the benches and to join with others in honoring and commemorating those lost to recent acts of terrorism, political fanaticism and military conflict. The ripped and torn forms of the benches are metaphors of loss, and the empty spaces between them refer to the missing. The bench thus provides a space for both individual and communal meditation, mourning and eventual transcendence.


Philadelphia Inquirer, Ed Sozanski, Steel ink.

The spontaneity of ink-and-brush calligraphy would appear to be impossible to re-create in welded steel. James Fuhrman achieves it, though, using a method that is by necessity methodical and technically demand­ing.

The sculptures that Fuhrman is showing at the Paley Design Center of Philadelphia Col­lege of Textiles & Science consist of stainless-steel glyphs that resemble abstract calligra­phy embedded in slabs of concrete. Fuhrman grinds down the concrete to make the shiny steel strokes flush with the surface.

In doing so, he creates the illusion that the steel gestures lie on the smooth concrete like thin films of ink. That, in turn, accentuates their fluidity, as if they had been drawn in an inspirational flash with molten metal. The fig­ures are quickly drawn. but first with ink on paper. The ink drawings are used as templates to guide a steel-cutting torch.


January 2007, R.B. Strauss

Of course, the size con­straints of this exhibition finds that all the work here is relative­ly small, but some pieces could well be models for outdoor mon­uments, and a fine example of this idea is “Vitruvian Gate,” by James Fuhrman. This work is all economic simplicity, which yields a deep spiritual tug.

On a narrow flat base, two wafer thin slabs of jagged steel rise but a few inches. Balanced atop them are two lengths of steel like conductors’ batons. The total effect is a passage to another world, as there is some­thing strange about how the structure has been built asym­metrically, yet still necessary and coherent.







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *