ERIC HIMMEL | Towers
May 4 - June 8, 2018
Eric Himmel’s constructions reflect archetypal structures that appear in most cultures, such as towers, buildings, boats, rooms, sarcophagi, and temples. Each of these forms is a vessel for ideas and feelings related to basic human needs. So, for example, a tower can be tied to safety (lookout), sustenance (grain storage), socialization (communication), or play (treehouse). A tower’s purpose casts an aura over its form: It may appear sinister to some and reassuring to others; its design might evoke the past or look to the future.
While some of Himmel’s structures are shaped by the imagination responding to real-world examples, others are influenced by archetypes in art, both high and popular. In Himmel’s mythos, builders are often working with organic parts (as in towers that have wings or boats that swim with fishlike fins or tails) or with elaborate ducts and vents, which are fashioned out of everyday construction materials. The resulting works are a hybrid of sculpture and model making.
Himmel works mostly in basswood, which is a softwood with a fine, even grain and excellent long-term stability. Basswood (called limewood or linden in Europe) was a favorite material for Medieval and Renaissance woodcarvers and, more prosaically, is widely used by model makers today. He occasionally incorporates plaster and found or natural objects into his constructions.
Eric Himmel is editor in chief at Abrams Books, where he has acquired and edited hundreds of books about art, photography, design, nature, science, and many other subjects over a career of more than thirty-five years. He has also designed books for Abrams. Recently, he was a co-author of The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal (Abrams, 2017). The son of photographers Paul Himmel and Lillian Bassman, he grew up and lives in New York City.