Santa Barbara

Robert Thomas, Conway Pierson, Ann Perkoff

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

These investigative bronze castings ex­ploit some of the possibilities of lost wax casting. In reinvestigating lost wax casting these two instructors at the Uni­versity of California in Santa Barbara have built their own equipment and are doing their own casting. The exciting process has been recorded by the lucid, unaffected photographs of Ann Perkoff, and these in turn have been incorpor­ated into the show.

Unfortunately, many of the pieces ex­hibit the disadvantages of new mate­rials and new untempered freedoms. The fact that the word “piece” often seems more appropriate than “sculpture” sug­gests a lack in some of the work of an essential sculptural quality (perhaps a strong physical existence). There seems to be a tendency to be seduced by the tactile pliability of the wax as well as a tendency to settle for minor aberra­tions. Conway’s ten “Vessels” grow from a decorative metal and pottery “Garden Vessel” to tasteful wood and metal Vessels and finally develop into some­thing transcending utilitarian tasteful­ness and craftsmanship. They do be­come alive. This fact is acknowledged by the maker in the title “Zoomorphic Vessel.” This particular ram’s head sym­bol, together with another prehistoric fish-form Vessel, must have been con­ceived as vessels for a ritual. (Society has always differentiated openly be­tween pots and sacramental vessels.) An open self-commitment by Conway would clarify his direction and lead to a greater development and selectivity. The same anthropomorphic characteris­tic is evidenced in the works of Robert Thomas, especially in “Plant I,” a half-­hand, half-plant struggling not to col­lapse, and “Finestere,” a large maybe­-crucifix part-growing tree, part-resting man. Three other totem-like pieces seem like pedestals in search of some cul­ture. The strongest work is “Bird Mask,” a simple eloquent form feelingly pierced and wounded. This sculpture, the most cut open piece, leads us to speculate whether an honest evaluation of the thin metal doesn’t make the work less over­blown and more effective as sculpture. Another fine piece, “Grieving Head,” is a combination of both modeling and in­cising. Instead of following the lead of these two mixed approaches, Thomas seems to have settled for subtle scratch­ings on flat plaques. These plaques seem literal illustrations. Of the seven works, only “Hephaesters Snare,” dis­plays real physical involvement

Jorgen Hansen