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It's no STRETCH to see this art
Sculptor's oversized character comes through in aggressive work
By Kate Hackman
Special in the Star

     Jeff Rumaner, better known as STRETCH, is a Kansas City-based sculptor whose presences is nearly as commanding as the massive steel and glass artworks he creates. This is an artist who, after the recent opening of his exhibition at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, celebrating by shooting off fireworks in front of Zone, his gallery/studio a few blocks away.
     Of course, it makes sense that a larger-than-life character would be the artist behind the anything but timid sculptures on view, which required a boom truck, forklift and lots of luck of coax into the gallery at all.
     In his art making practice STRETCH is guided by intuition and physical process--even while working with materials that required heavy machinery to manipulate. A few of the 10 works currently on view were constructed in a flurry of creative activity during a one-week stay at Mark d Suvero's studio in New York this summer. For several years STRETCH has divided his time between Kansas City and Long Island, working as an assistant to d Suvero, a widely recognized sculptor and founder of the So crates Sculpture Park in Queens.
     STRETCH's influences also include the late Dale Eld red, former chair of the Kansas City Art Institute sculpture department with whom he studied as an undergraduate. STRETCH later earned his MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University.
     Preliminary sketches for some of the larger sculptures featured in "From Low Scale Elegance to Full Scale Visual Assault" are available for viewing in the Kansas City flat flies at the Kansas City Art Institute's H&R Block Art space. Those expressionistic drawings, rendered in thick black marker or painted in ink, convey bold, fluid gestures, exuding motion as they jet across paper as if through space, Unfortunately, some of this energy is lost as the sketches are transformed into actual works.
     Though theatrical for sure -- inspiring in their hugeness, their physical weight, their contrasting rusted steel and glass elements, the way their vastness often meets the floor with ballet ic grace--and impressive testament to STRETCH's command of materials, many fail to truly satisfy.
     Though seemingly wanting to transcend strictly formal concerns to address larger issues and relationships, the artist's intent here doesn't always feel resolved. While the awe inspiring monumentality of several works compensates for this lack of clear purpose, it becomes particularly apparent in a number if smaller sculpture displayed on pedestals.
     Feeling more like models than finished works, these fail to achieve an "elegant" wholeness and balance of to provoke enduring interest.
     The strongest works are indeed the biggest. Notable among them is "Toxic", whose 25-foot-long, rusted steel body thrusts diagonally through the gallery space, projecting nearly from floor to ceiling. Three supporting legs joined to the low end of the central body, extend in opposite directions like a tripod, providing support while lending multi-directionality.
     Referencing a toxic warfare satellite, STRETCH complicates the work by attaching roughly a dozen windmill-like paddles, constructed of glass tubes sent into steel armatures and arranged in the approximation of a DNA double-helix structure.
     These symbols of life both encumber and activate the massive steel body, like awkward foreign appendages affixed to a prehistoric-creative. Incorporating aspects both ancient and modern, referencing both life and death, this work--engaging from multiple perspectives--achieves the internal tension STRETCH strives for where as he explains in his artist statement, parts and materials "work against each other yet still maintain a high level of dialogue."
     In the back gallery of Leedy-Voulkos, Montana based Kate "New Work", created from newspapers, twine and steel, provides a rich counter point to STRETCH's visual assault.
     Yet while embracing a subtle, humbler more organic aesthetic and approach, Hunt, too, demonstrates a powerful command and intuitive sense of her materials. She's been working with newspaper since her days at the Kansas City Art Institute.
     Through weathering, varnishing, chopping and binding Hunt recasts this common material into the stuff of sculpture, often to stunning and suprising effect. In one "Untitled " work, thousands of small squares of newspaper stacked, bound on one side by epoxy and suspended from steel, wall-mounted rods, appear as ashen gray, curling tentacles. Through elemental in its simplicity, the sculpture achieves a gorgeous lushness.
     Other works include "Floor", a series of soft but sturdy mates, constructed of twine-bound strips of newspaper laid out in a grid on the gallery floor.
     Visitors may - in fact must - walk on top of the mats of move through the space.
     Wound expanses of honey-colored twine play dramatically off yellowing paper and gray steel in several other works, furthering demonstrating Hunt's ability to transform utilitarian, common materials into elegant, compelling artworks by respecting rather than overwhelming their fundamental properties.