New York

Group Show

World House

A group show of contemporary sculpture at World House points up an unsettling aspect of newer sculpture; almost every artist represented looks better in company than alone. As a whole, the show holds to the clean-form, constructed, polychrome approach. The feeling throughout is jazzy and knowing, but what is known seems to be how to cut a good figure in public rather than how to make good sculpture. The best pieces are by those artists with some experience and maturity in their styles. A very simple and wacky Di Suvero is just a hanging sheet of brass, snipped, curled, and bolted. With one authoritative stroke he calls attention to the insubstantiality of the plane as a form and the enormous potential a surface (as opposed to a volume) has to articulate space. The bolts make it certain that there is no nonsense. Joseph Kurhajec’s untitled fur-topped arch attached to a snaky form of welded pipe sections terminating in an uncomfortably sharp irregular pyramid is far better than anything in his show last spring at Allan Stone. Here is a talent coming into full possession of its potential. Tom Doyle, not seen for some time in New York, shows a tense curve of purple plywood on a pea-green stand of insect-like legs that gives a definitive lesson in the effective exploitation of contrasts of form and direction. Tina Makovic’s collapsing cube,  X-Q, s different shades of shiny yellow inside, and matte white outside. The immobility of the dissociating square planes is intelligently paradoxical. Robert Hudson’s Skeptical Space incorporates a large number of sight-gags and Chirico fake map painting in a medium-size piece. All his sportiveness remains amiable because he has such a secure grasp of sculptural form.

The old master contingent is unpretentiously present in the form of a small and typical Calder mobile, a more than usually boring George Rickey Peristyle just like all his others, but smaller, and David Smith’s Voltron XIII, an anthropomorphically gesturing spinoff of the tank totems.

Judging by their entries here, Anthony Caro, Robert Mallary, and Kobashi all enjoy reputations that date from a period of total want of talent in American and English sculpture. Caro’s welded I-beams need far more sensitive installation than they’ve received here to generate more than tepid interest. Mallary’s New York New York is so slight an effort that its effect here is weakly junky, and Kobashi’s strung up musical terracotta’s are as cuddly and adjustable as ever.

Aside from several new names who are trailing along after Oldenburg and Ludwig Sandler, or who might in future catalogs be dismissed as “amico di Vantongerloo,” this show of generally younger (under thirty-five) sculptors shows more ease of expression and less self-conscious use of new materials than would be found in such a group show, say, of five years ago. Polychromy, stereometric forms and “industrial” finish are all very much in evidence, indicating that American sculpture has finally assimilated the technology of the times into both craft and imagery. There were too few kinetic sculptures, however, and more than one contemporary sculpture buff remarked on the absence, for example, of figures like Sondra Beal.

––Dennis Adrian