Caught in the Act

Gary Webb: Mr. Jeans

By Jared Bowen

June 1, 2012

BOSTON — British sculptor Gary Webb is a fast-rising star. Already a big deal in Europe, he’s now making his US museum debut right here at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in a show titled, Gary Webb: Mr. Jeans.
Gary Webb’s work is color: shiny and shimmering. It’s curious. It’s pedestals, pipes and it’s perplexing. The exhibit is also the British sculptor’s US museum debut. Nick Capasso, the deCordova’s deputy director, marvels at Webb’s technique.
“It is just pure, unbridled creativity that he makes manifest in the world, and he goes for it 100 percent. Everything is beautifully crafted, everything is perfect. But it’s all a little nuts,” Capasso exclaimed.

It’s a coup for the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum to present Gary Webb, an artist very well known and collected across Europe. At first blush, Webb’s work looks to be the result of a whirlwind of whimsy.  But Capasso says many of the artist’s pieces are also a nod to modernist sculptors like Brancusi.
“[Brancusi] would often compose his work by stacking the elements one on top of the other, and you see that throughout Gary’s show. These are stacked, but they’re sort of stacked at a slant or stacked on a curve, and you get the sense that things are just about to fall apart sometimes,” he said.
I toured the show with the 39 year-old Webb, and it was a bit like stepping directly into his brain. He’s refreshingly unfiltered, like a factory of unbridled imagination. 
Describing one of his works, he said, “Well this one was kind of a little bit about justice and kind of like we have this wing and hand coming down and stomping you, just to sort of calm down, slow down, relax. There’s a little mountain that you have to climb up to judge,” said Webb.
Another work called “Buzios” looks a little interactive, not that visitors are encouraged to touch it.
“Buzios is a place just north of Rio in Brazil,” said Webb. “It was a creature funny enough that I saw on a shoreline, I was not drunk (laughing), and it was a funny creature that I definitely saw in the water, which must’ve been from the deep sea. So I had this little shape idea in my mind, and this was actually a little model on the desk, and these were paper clips, and so things grew from there,” Webb said.
With a vivid, creative spigot Webb can’t seem to turn off, he’s a prolific chronicler of ideas. His original illustrations for many of the pieces in the show dot the deCordova’s walls.
“He doesn’t talk about art history and other artists, and all these aesthetic issues,” said Capasso. “He just talks about these ideas that are occurring when he’s walking down the street, or that he’s doodling on a piece of paper, and they grip him. He feels, ‘I have to make that, I have to make that!’ And he does.”
When I asked Webb if he ever gets lost in his own imagination, he simply laughed and said, “Yup.” But he doesn’t think his creative energy should put off anyone. “It’s like when you gather it all together, it gets really condensed. With the ideas, you just sort of compress it and move it all into this reality, and that’s how you sort of do it. But other than that, I’m just a regular guy in a bar. I can talk about anything to anyone,” he said.
About the Author
Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 


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