New York

Frank Gallo

Graham Gallery

Frank Gallo’s exhibition at Graham gives the public a better look at this figurative sculptor’s work than it was possible to get at the Whitney group show of younger artists this past spring. His widely-reproduced figure of a girl literally sinking into a butterfly chair is of course considered his chef d’oeuvre, and is a masterpiece of winking anecdotalism. His present show gives this lemon one more squeeze. This time it’s a clothed man sitting in a chair. This image (as a type) is competing out of Gallo’s league. Manzu’s neurasthenic seated woman in the Museum of Modern Art deals so masterfully in bronze with all the delicacies of form and observation the subject affords, that no amount of finicky worrying of the epoxy can elevate Gallo’s repertorial stylishness to an equally classic form. All Gallo’s pieces, including portrait heads, have an initially ingratiating triviality. They are deliberately informal. His emphasis is very little on the formal problems of making a sculpture. Most of his effort goes into the telling pose. Acute observation, a real eye for the expressive moment, is Gallo’s gift. His way of dealing with form is somewhere between the stylization of Nadelman and Hugo Robus but lacks their purity and abstractness. Gallo cannot resist noodling his surfaces with incisions, rubbed-in color, and idiosyncratic de tails for either anatomy or costume. For this reason his works have too many personal touches; but not the kind that come from the personality of the artist. Contrarily, they are attempts to animate works by giving each figure a specific identity. That Gallo must do this with profuse descriptive detail is symptomatic of the basic lifelessness of his sculptural invention.

––Dennis Adrian