Al Farrow’s meticulously crafted sculptures are both haunting and mesmerizing. Using materials such as deconstructed guns, bullets, bone, glass, and steel, Farrow creates ornate religious structures, ritual objects, and reliquaries that are visually striking and emotionally confounding. Through these shockingly beautiful and highly detailed sculptures of churches, synagogues, mosques, mausoleums, Jewish ritual objects and Christian ‘casket’ reliquaries, all rendered from munitions, Farrow examines the abiding relationships between religion and violence, peace and brutality, the sacred and the unholy.
This unique exploration began after a trip to Italy two decades ago, when Farrow was confronted with a reliquary containing the remains of an ancient Saint. Reliquaries, which are containers that store and display precious relics, were often crafted of or enrobed in opulent materials such as gold, silver, ivory, enamel, and gems. The ornate objects were a major form of artistic production across Europe and Byzantium throughout the Middle Ages and at one time, these highly embellished objects adorned every altar. In an essay in the exhibition catalogue, Diana L. Daniels, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, writes, “In San Lorenzo’s crypt, in 1995, Al Farrow encountered the inexplicable strangeness of a withered finger thus ensconced. The event sparked a cascade of thought in which he questioned the mystery, paying no mind to the saint, finding himself powerfully stirred by the finger’s presentation: bent and lean, encased in glass, and surrounded by worked silver. Its fantastical appearance, locked like a finger with stenosing tenosynovitis (better known as trigger finger) in its artful home struck him not only as bizarre, but incongruous.” Farrow’s thoughts turned to the contemporary political climate, religion, war, history, culture, and faith, provoking reflections that ultimately inspired the works featured in Wrath and Reverence.
Al Farrow: Wrath and Reverence debuted at The Forum Gallery, New York in March 2015, and traveled to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. The exhibition will continue to the Bellevue arts museum and the University of Wyoming in 2017, and then The McKinney Avenue Contemporary in Dallas in 2018. In 2008, Al Farrow’s work was the subject of a solo exhibition at the San Francisco Fine Arts Museum (the de Young). His sculptures are included in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the San Jose Museum of Art; the de Young Museum; the Government of the State of Israel; and 21c Museum Hotel, which previously featured Study for a Mosque Reliquary (2001) and Menorah VI (2008) in Aftermath: Witnessing War, Countenancing Compassion, presented in Louisville in 2013.
Wrath and Reverence is accompanied by a 112-page color catalogue with essays by Eleanor Heartney and Diana L. Daniels, and a foreword by Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Chris Hedges, author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.