Jeremy Mora is going to need bifocals long before he hits mid-life. His diminutive sculptures are unique and eye-opening and can best be described as dioramas that have escaped the shoebox. Exhibited at the newly revamped Mark Wolfe Contemporary Art Gallery, Mora's small landscape sculptures jut out from the wall at various levels or are riskily installed on the floor. He uses driftwood, Irish tree branches and building materials to create habitats for miniscule figures, which are literally the size of a pin and are purchased from a model train shop in Los Angeles where the artist currently works. Tiny parking cones, trees, and statues meant for escapist environments built by obsessive train collectors are included in the work and transfer quite well into the world of fine art. Words aren't enough to convey how delicate the sculptures appear and it was not surprising to learn that careless opening night reception attendees crushed three of the floor installations. Though Mora was able to glue the pieces back together after the opening, his work is far more complicated than it looks. One of the latest pieces from 2006, Untitled (Rescue) is a grapefruit-sized mass of leaves, twigs, and cement chunks hanging from a delicate green vine made of an algae-like fungus called lichen intricately wrapped around piano wire. This was the last piece Mora created for the show and the idea came about spontaneously during an inspirational studio clean-up.
It's obvious that Mora paid special attention to the space in which his work would be displayed. His style is vaguely reminiscent of Tracy Snelling's small-scale replicas of run-down architecture but is less voyeuristic and has an ardent sensibility. A floor sculpture titled Things Are Gonna Change incorporated a pile of rubble, a broken piece of roadway, and a small bloody axe. The work is full of curiosity and leaves the viewer wondering where the pieces might lead -- an example is a thread-thin ladder made of skinny strips of drywall tape that is inscrutably sucked up by a hole in the gallery's jagged concrete ceiling.
Mora is not concerned with perfection in the traditional sense. He doesn't hide the Styrofoam bases of his work but instead chooses to glorify them. As Mora has said, sculpture stole him from painting and, inspired by Hans Hofman's book, Search for the Real, he realized that specific materials conveyed certain messages and felt that PourStone anchoring cement, tree branches, and miniscule human figures could send messages unlike any other media. Hofman, an influential painter, also once said that nature's purpose in art is "to provide stimulus -- not imitation," which is exactly how Mora's work operates. Though they do represent unusual outdoor scenes, the pieces aim to provoke thoughts about humanity -- they are not meant to be exacting representations of the natural world.
Mora's exhibit inspires a desire to be Alice in Wonderland and have the ability to eat a little cake and become small enough to explore his miniature vignettes. The sculptures invite contemplation of how big (or small) we really are in the grand scheme of the universe. Mora introspectively looks at the happenings of the world around him and transfers his observations into works that are impossibly small but have much to say about contemporary life. He is interested in what he calls "pushing the moment."
The wise words of an enlightened little girl, who was at the reception handing viewers slips of paper printed with the following sentiment, should be enough to convince you of the captivating relevance of Mora's work: "Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, Jeremy Mora is the coolest person I ever met in my entire life. He can almost do anything he could think of. I mean if he would want to make his life the best life he possibly could have, he could make it that way. His life is already like that. So enjoy his happiness and yours."
Jeremy Mora's "Sculpture" is at Mark Wolfe Contemporary Art Gallery in San Francisco through March 23, 2007.