Los Angeles

Lothar Kestenbaum

Ankrum Gallery

The cast iron animals of Kestenbaum are the most impressive. Seeing one stimulates the mind to create the wild environment which exists around it. Every part of the animal’s body has been worked on by the wind and rugged terrain. In casting, Kestenbaum uses the lost wax process. He seems to have worked the forms rapidly and by making areas of a belly or neck lattice-like, he has merged the creature even more with the free air. The implication of the environment plus the sense of untamed life, make these animals satisfying because they are a fulfillment of type. A horse rolls on his back before a thunderstorm; a Mexican dog stalks his food just the way we think he would.

Kestenbaum’s welded iron sculptures, such as the owl and the bug, acquire a handsomeness from the linear decorative quality of the technique, though these pieces are less lifelike. Two bronze reliefs should also be mentioned for their coordination of figure and ground.

In contrast to the animal subjects, the human figures in the show communicate a theme before anything else. The idea of survivor and victim and their competition is immediately understood, and the fact that one man is carrying another on his back is realized second. This theme is also present in the animals, but it is not so ostensible. Interestingly, the expressive power of horns, claws, tails is pointed up by the lack of this vocabulary in the human figure, which, in its smoothness, implies a generalization and more easily moves to the abstract.

Kestenbaum lets technique work for him in his cast works, and by not using an acid bath on them he lends a sensuous coating of grey-blues and purples to the surface. The uncultivated nature of the animals is thus again emphasized and they become even more memorable.

Molly Siple