One could easily feel intimidated looking at Tom Driscoll's eerily misleading cones. Whether they're placed tidily on the floor or hung carefully on the wall—as they will be when his new solo show opens from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at Ice Gallery in Bread & Salt (1955 Julian Ave. in Logan Heights)—the concrete pieces have the look of something weaponized: smooth and perfect in form, but dangerous nonetheless.
"It almost kind of looks like an arsenal, doesn't it," Driscoll jokes as he looks over the assembled pieces, most of which were made using discarded molds from a military base. "It all started around '96. I worked 23 years at this research lab in Point Loma right when you go into the submarine base. I had access to all this thrown-away stuff that I ended up using for my art."
Indeed, one man's trash became Driscoll's treasure. His coworkers and neighbors embraced the dumpster diving, knowing that he was using the military relics to create conceptual sculptures. A couple of the pieces in the show aren't actually sculptures at all, but rather two of the original molds that Driscoll used to make the cones. He's reluctant to throw things away and, as such, has become a prolific artist, if not a bit of a hoarder. His studio is piled with things he'll eventually use in his pieces, as well as completed works, which vary from corkscrew-shaped sculptures made from plastic soda bottles to molded pieces that include debris from his dumpster diving.
The cone show represents the closest thing Driscoll's had to a mid-career survey of his work, even if the show's focus is solely on the cones. There are also pieces that Driscoll calls "hemispheres," indented half-spheres that he's fashioned into speakers for past installations. Ice Gallery previously showcased some of his foam work in 2012 at the gallery's old location in North Park. Ice curator Michael James Armstrong has developed a particular fondness for Driscoll, helping the artist clean out his studio and even building him a website to show off his work. For now, the new show at Ice Gallery could serve as a fantastic introduction to an artist who's been under the radar for too long.
"This is just one tiny phase that Tom went through. There's a ton of sculptural work that's totally different," Armstrong says. "Locally, he has a nice following, but I know there's a gallery somewhere not in San Diego that would fall in love with his work."