R.M. Fischer began his art career in the 1980s, making sculptures from scuffed brass knobs, rusted metal rods, pots, pans, and other found objects. Later, in the early 2000s, he progressed to soft sculpture — pieces made from vinyl fabric and upholstery. In a new show at Nina Johnson Gallery (formerly Gallery Diet), titled "Lampworks," the artist merges his fascination with soft and industrial sculpture in works that shine a light on the intersections of design, architecture, and high art. It might seem like a daunting task for a gallery show, but Fischer for decades has been working across several disciplines, borrowing elements from each.
"Working in what appears to be an interdisciplinary fashion (but for me is always defined as sculpture) is a way of engaging an audience in an experience that is both familiar and unexpected at the same time," Fischer told New Times on the eve of his Miami show. "People are accustomed to design elements in their homes or the architecture in their cities, and by referencing these things in my sculpture, I hope to make the work accessible."
He succeeds in that goal. These lamp pieces are not ones you would typically see at upscale furniture stores around town; they're structures composed of jagged, crude, and awkward frames that form skeletons draped with red, blue, and cream fabric. Though they're not functional lighting accessories, Fischer's pieces create intricate plays of light and shadow that envelop any space they inhabit. It's a unique effect gallerist Nina Johnson was quick to notice.
"The moment I saw these works in Ron’s studio, I was blown away. I don’t think I said three words to him before asking if he wanted to show these in Miami," Johnson gushes. "The elegance of the forms combined with the raw energy of the way they’re assembled, there is this creature-like presence to them that just draws you in."
That raw energy is something Fischer works hard to cultivate. Borrowing from elements of folk art, these works are imbued with an unfinished quality that adds to their charm. Part lamp, part architectural structure (think Native American teepee), the pieces dynamically defuse light in a way that adds a dash of theatricality.
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"Using lighting in my work helps to make it more dramatic," Fischer explains. "It gives the sculpture a lifelike expressive quality with a nod to lighting design."
Fischer knows how to play to his audience. By appropriating references to everyday objects with a touch of theatricality, his pieces are not only accessible but also relatable. Perhaps that's what prompted the New York Times in 2014 to say, "Mr. Fischer will not be stopped. He will consume his earlier career to keep making art.”
"Lampworks." Saturday, September 23, through October 14 at Nina Johnson Gallery, 6315 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-571-2288; ninajohnson.com. Admission is free.