Solo Shows

Don Porcaro: Timeless sculptures for our time

Don Porcaro, “Time Will Tell,” installation view, Westwood Gallery.
(Images courtesy the artist and Westwood Gallery NYC. Artwork © Don Porcaro)

Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / “Time Will Tell,” Don Porcaro’s boffo solo sculpture exhibition at Westwood Gallery, is at once aesthetically rigorous and culturally resonant, and neither quality ever compromises the other. The contrapuntal historical content and playful spirit of his work make for a uniquely multivalent atmosphere that combines the gravity of the land artists, the temporal sensitivity of Sarah Sze, the serene wit of Isamu Noguchi, and, not least, the socio-political elegance of Martin Puryear. You can perhaps choose which sensibility to privilege in a given minute, but, over the course of a sufficient viewing, all are likely to surface.

Don Porcaro,
Talisman 16, 2016, marble, limestone, and brass,
51 x 15 x 16 inches

Porcaro starts small and often ends big, selecting slabs of marble, limestone, and other rock that he then shapes and layers. His process is recursive and scalable, additive rather than reductive, which affords him considerable versatility. The pieces range in height from under a foot to over seven feet, and weigh up to a ton. Larger works, such as those in the Everybody Knows and Time Will Tell series, evoke the span of geologic time, marking major transitions with darker layers. While he is firmly an abstract artist, his curving line and signature stubby, rounded “feet” at the sculptures’ bases – jocularly childlike and unequivocally benign – clearly allude to the figure. More than that, they leaven the work’s imposing visual and spatial enunciations by personalizing them and bringing them down to earth. Heavy sculptures are now notionally ambulatory, but in the manner of a penguin rather than a raptor; the objects have become friendly. With Porcaro’s gentle beveling and the odd shapes he occasionally confers, the curves and the feet also ensure that his work is never pompously solemn or grandiose. It simply remains unpretentiously resolute and authoritative.

Don Porcaro. Everybody Knows 4, 2021, marble, limestone, granite, and brass, 81 x 26 x 21 inches

His graceful embrace of the big picture and small aperture, the serious and lighthearted, the austere and the sensual, makes him a modernist in the fullest sense. The larger pieces probe existential themes like cultural durability and humankind’s place in the world. The midsize works track as relative chamber pieces that riff sardonically on the vexations of everyday life – like, say, Beckett, Proust, or Woolf – as well as epochal issues. Most feature customized brass fixtures, sometimes inspired by artifacts of different cultures and thus reflecting an open-hearted pluralism.

Don Porcaro, Talisman 15, 2016, marble, limestone, and brass, 87 x 41 x 41 inches

In Talisman 15, he deploys what looks like an outsize brass perfume atomizer atop his patented lithic slabs, rendering an essentially mundane indulgence a telling incident of humanity. That’s How the Light Gets In 6 sports an apparent handle, affirming the broad appeal of portability, while the curved lever crowning the mysteriously asymmetrical That’s How the Light Gets In 4 might allude to – and reflexively celebrate – the restive human compulsion to scrutinize the differentiated passage of time implied in his striations. Talisman 17, its stone layers interrupted by metal and topped by an ominous spheroid, hints at the Nuclear Age as a quotidian protuberance. Talisman 16, featuring several ceramic balls on top, might be a more agreeable nod to fecundity.

Don Porcaro, That’s How the Light Gets In 6, 2019, marble, limestone, and brass, 24 x 12 x 12 inches

The small sculptures are not mere studies or miniatures but instead encapsulate spatial tropes distributed over Porcaro’s entire oeuvre, where the works on paper seem to map an overarching worldview. Notwithstanding the warm civilizational vibe, there is the touch of the cool Minimalist in Porcaro. Through the full range of his sculptural output, like time itself he demonstrates a keen and unblinking fidelity to the physical attributes of his materials. Whereas ancient and Renaissance sculptors sought to create the illusion of lightness with figures that seemed to float aloft like gods, defying the inertial stillness of granite or marble, Porcaro unabashedly embraces their weight and mass and, consequently, their inexorable three-dimensional objectness. If for a given sculpture he has in mind a certain real-world referent, he also self-consciously intends the piece itself to be a unique and compatible addition to the world – as they all are, duly accorded Brancusian simplicity and beauty.

Don Porcaro, Talisman 3, 2012 marble, limestone, and brass, 39 x 12 x 12 inches

The remarkable abundance, embedded systematization, meticulous conceptualization, high refinement, and sheer labor-intensity of Porcaro’s work, achieved over the course of a 40-year career not only as a sculptor but also as a full-time professor at Parsons, is testament to the power of his craft and work ethic. Equally impressive is the deep art-historical integration that characterizes his work: the sculptures could comfortably rest in a Renaissance garden or, as they have, in a contemporary urban park or on a train platform. Against the present warp of mindless bombast and willful ignorance, Porcaro’s work exudes mindful and informed consideration. It stands as a dignified manifestation of calm intelligence, exquisitely wrought.

“Don Porcaro: Time Will Tell,” Westwood Gallery, 262 Bowery, New York, NY. Curated by James Cavello. Through June 10, 2023.


  1. Brian Rutenberg

    A wonderful and thoughtful review. Congratulations, Don!

  2. Fine review for extraordinary sculptures, congratulations Don.

  3. Remarkable exhibition! Porcaro is a unique and gifted sculptor and artist.

  4. Work at this level comes after a lifetime of focused attention and uncompromising integrity. Congratulations to Don for bringing this work into existence.

  5. Super review Jonathan.

  6. Congratulations on a beautiful show!

  7. Thought-provoking review that unpacks many of the attributes of these strong and subtle sculptures.

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