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Vertical movement, sequence

Beverly Pepper's ''Regent Plaza, 3,'' a model for a large-scale outdoor installation, is also a satisfying small sculpture in its own right. The vertical form of its three elements recalls the fact that the human figure has for centuries been the primary subject and pretext for Western sculpture. No direct reference to human anatomy appears here, yet the three verticals divide visually into sections, as we tend to think of the body as divided, and their similarities and differences give them the kind of individuality people's figures possess.

The formal structure of Pepper's sculpture is replete with references not only to the implied human form, but also to various styles and sources of sculpture. The assemblage of numerous steel shapes recalls African accumulative sculpture on the one hand, and on the other the streamlined verticals and welded steel sequences of Constantin Brancusi and Julio Gonzalez. The artist has introduced still further formal complexities by using elements that appear to be tools as if they were abstract forms (notice the two file-like shapes in the central figure). Like Brancusi, she also plays with the idea of the sculpture base, using more than one form in each vertical sequence that could be taken for a sculpture pedestal, while setting the whole group upon a flat steel sheet.

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If there is a ''subject'' in this work, it may be human individuality insofar as the forms of people's bodies suggest it. But it is also possible to see a more abstract theme here, in addition to the work's formal allusiveness. To apprehend the more abstract implication of the sculpture, you have to attend to the movement of your eye as it scans the various forms in the work. Moving either up or down the sequence of forms in each standing element, your eye speeds up or slows down, stops to linger on an empty space or rushes along a tapering shape, depending upon the exact order of the pieces' arrangement. The artist's control over the pace of our observation is like an abstraction into sculptural form of the shifting rhythms of experience. Whatever is happening to us in the course of a day, changes of pace are almost certain to occur, though we rarely focus on them as such. Pepper's sculpture, with its built-in analogies to the human form, gives us a basis for thinking about how much of what we take to be personal to ourselves may really be completely impersonal aspects of experience shared by everyone.

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