Serendipitous Sculptures


Those who frequent MCLA's historic Murdock Hall no doubt are familiar with "Mr. Goodbody." The 12-foot-tall sculpture, created in 2005 with an antique desk discovered in the building's attic, loams ominously over passersby. It's a recreation of local artist Richard Criddle's nightmarish prep-school teacher.

This Thursday, Criddle, the director of fabrication and installation at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), will unveil his latest sculptural creations - as well as a new collection of drawings - in "Compendium," a solo exhibition at MCLA Gallery 51.

Criddle, who is from England but now resides in Readsboro, Vt., has created sculptures for more than 40 years. He's been hard at work in his MASS MoCA studio over the past year - this summer in particular - creating new works for the show from a wide range of materials, including scrap metal, industrial hardware, old furniture and found objects.

A central piece for this exhibit resembles a battle wagon.

"It's very much a hybrid between an industrial cart and a medieval siege engine, and the type of cart they'd use to load bombs on flying fortresses," he explained. "The 'bomb' itself is from an old fairground ride."

Another new piece, "Storm in a Teacup," is a steel vessel mounted on a tripod. It features a turbulent seascape.

Some of his drawings - made with pencils, charcoal, acrylic paint or "anything that makes a mark" - will be seen by the public for the first time. Drawn on wooden panels, "They parallel the 'Teacup' sculpture. They certainly have the same type of flavor."

"This body of work cannot be viewed in an instant," Criddle said. "People will have to visually explore my works and respond to the story I think is wrapped up in each one of the pieces. I really enjoy making things, and to make sculpture in a very playful way. I take what I do seriously, but it's active, creative play that I'm engaged in.

"I'd like people to get a sense of that creative play," he continued. "I'm enjoying the activity of playing in the studio. A lot of artists get themselves type cast, much like actors, in that they have a certain formula or a certain way of doing things. Sometimes artists are scared to take chances because they have a reputation or a particular type of work that they're known for. It's wonderful when you come across an artist who's been doing a certain sort of work for a while and, for one reason or another, they make a complete departure."

A sculptor since the age of 17, "I'm just enjoying the playful side of things," Criddle said. "I don't want to get stuck in some kind of rut, and the older I get, the more fun it becomes. The fact is, there's nothing better for me than going down to the studio and making sculpture. It's precious time for me. It's a lot of fun, and I love it."

For more information about Criddle's artwork, go to his Web site at "Compendium" runs through Sept. 23. MCLA Gallery 51 is at 51 Main St. in North Adams and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.