Art Visuals, Visual Arts
by Joseph Mashek
'Peter Haines grew up in Ohio, attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and lives and works in Cambridge, Mass. Bronze, even in the sense of the Bronze Age, is his consuming metier. Haines is a big strapping guy, but most of his sculptures are small, many tiny indeed. Better not to say "but," since the work has to do with subtlety as achieved refinement, essentialization, intensification, in the sense that in German to intensify is as if to render poetic. No wonder Haine's sense of form is knowingly akin to that of the ancient Chinese jade carvers and masters of bronze, not to mention the sleeker side of Brancusi, involving extravagant but understated care on behalf of minute simplicities. Although some of the pieces fairly closely resemble the ancient jade axes, in particular, in shape, there is nothing antiquarian about them. If anything, Haine's bronzes bespeak the Neolithic as the origin of an ultimate and ageless modernity wherein human intelligence gains the experience of focusing ('intensifying') itself in aspiring to perfection, generating history by working on the future, which, only, makes the present precious.
The sense of shape and abstract shapeliness is itself important, and may be urgent now. Partly, but only partly, this has to do with the stripping down of anything like natural form, simplifying it, not in every sense 'reductively,' in advancement of a mathematical elegance or functionalistic simplicity that accounts, too, for much of the appeal of the ancient Cycladic figurines to earlier moderns. But the problem of shape also has its psychological aspect, at least since the rise of empathy theory in the later nineteenth century. At stake is how even the purist forms associate with experience of the human body, and, hence, beyond formalism, with the more intrinsic or innate significance of form, including everything derived from the human exoerience of nature, in abstract art.
Stylistically, Haine's sculpture could not look less expressionistic, at least in the sense in which the term is nowadays rampant as abiding the most mannered quirks of solipsistic indulgence. The gratification is that, by virtue of its abstract, sublimated involvement with a bodily shapeliness, it manages to mine deeper mental groundings of expressionism than does plenty of more exotic-looking work. Besides, art like this may hold up the possibility of expressions of wholeness, composure, serenity, and so on, not just their gritty opposites.'