The Jubitz Center's previous contemporary art exhibition showcased Ursula von Rydingsvard's enigmatic monolith "Pod Pacha," a dumpster-sized sculpture made of cedar beams and an unseen motor. With an exhibition featuring a pair of enormous works in wood, the British artist Richard Deacon creates a seamless aesthetic segue. Like von Rydingsvard's sculpture, Deacon's two pieces, which are made of stainless steel and oak, are imposingly massive and juxtapose the industrial and the organic. But for Deacon, who was awarded the prestigious Turner Prize in 1987, these similarities in materials and scale are used for decidedly different ends.

Support The Portland Mercury

Von Rydingsvard's use of cedar cultivated an estranging effect. As a mechanical crank labored audibly within the "Pod Pacha," the cedar exterior called attention to its own displacement. Deacon's use of oak, on the other hand, strangely mimics the material's natural state. Fittingly, this self-referential handling of materials reflects the non-representational nat­ure of his objects. Rather than point to some meaning beyond the physicality of the work, Deacon's sculptures are narrowly focused on their formal attributes. In that sense, there's no need to dig beneath the surface; the surface is what matters.

The show's centerpiece is the enormous new sculpture "Dead Leg," which sprawls from one corner of the exhibition space to its opposite. Seeming to begin from a totemic piece of wood that leans against the floor, the sculpture forks into two directions in an undulating braid of multiple smaller pieces of oak. These braids loop, arch, and wrap around themselves in knotty tangles. And while the twisting contours appear too fluid and dynamic for such a dense and obdurate material as wood, they also conjure the material's most natural forms: meandering branches and roots. But where branches and roots would spread ever outward, the braids feed into a single, continuous system. In this sense, Deacon creates a kind of conceptual Möbius strip. Even when "Dead Leg" seems to possess a representational capacity, that possibility caves in on itself as a viewer's attention is redirected back to the sheer physicality of the sculpture. Its beguiling form may invite interpretation, but in the end, Deacon seems to insist that, quite simply, it is what it is. JOHN MOTLEY