Los Angeles Times
April 16, 1999
Ron Pippin calls his current show at Sherry Frumkin Gallery "Archives and Armor," and through his intriguing work we come to see how those two different things share a common purpose: to protect life. Pippin's work dances around that impulse and occasionally penetrates it with great poignancy. His is an accretive sensibility, hungry to gather and retain objects that resonate with use and experience, from feathers, bones and old photographs to dried-out tea bags and bronzed baby shoes.
Pippin makes books that don't open but whose covers bear talismans like butterflies and lizard skins, and whose edges are crowded with tabs and markers, assuring that material of great significance lies bound within. He takes taxidermied animals and compensates for their vulnerability by supplying them with prosthetic devices, strapping crutches on a dog, a metal beak on a rabbit. Odd, disturbing and a bit too heavy-handed, the sculptures nevertheless haunt the gallery with the presence of expired lives.
Just what does a life add up to? Pippin's trunks and archive boxes don't suggest answers as much as different ways to approach the question. The trunks, in their dense display of paraphernalia (one features, among hundreds of objects, a shaving brush, vials of blood-red liquid, church vestments, numerical lists, old photographs, an enshrined goblet, a pair of white gloves) must be surrendered to as much as studied. They are overwhelmingly rich in clues to a mystery that from the start is clearly unsolvable.
A series of glass cases containing bundles of old papers suggests a rational; even taxonomic approach to defining a life. One case holds three distinct piles, labeled "Acts of Courage, "Acts of Faith" and "Acts of Grace." The papers, yellowed and brittle, can't be read, since they. are stacked, but protruding fragments show printed musical scores and product information, not a personal manuscript of any kind.
Pippin has worked before with mythic and religious subjects, and here, it's as if he's stripped away such belief systems to expose the utter fragility and transience of our lives. These cases and trunks mirror our efforts to save what we've done, who we are, what we're made of. It's a futile impulse, but irresistible. We might be able to reconcile ourselves to the ravages of time, but never to the erosive power of apathy.