New York

Mary Frank

Stephen Radich Gallery

Mary Frank’s new exhibition at the Stephen Radich Gallery gives a very full idea of the range and variety of her art. Her sculpture (both reliefs and free-standing pieces) in wood and bronze are conclusive demonstrations of a rare ability, that of being able to double-clutch smoothly and with no loss of momentum from modeling to carving along a single course of imagery and expressive concerns. Stirred by a personal vision rather troubling in its grave poetry and sustained by a firm, developed craft, Mrs. Frank’s work is the statement of an artist who hasn’t hustled her development, but let it unfold at its own rate.

The themes of the pieces belong to the realm of myth and dream, both rooted in an empathetic relationship with nature. The wooden pieces are notable in their successful balance of respectful consideration for the nature and form of the original block and of an artistic vision which of necessity violates it. This fine equilibrium maintained throughout several ambitious works establishes a level of achievement in direct wood carving seldom found in contemporary sculpture. Leda, arched back in rigid ecstasy at the moment of union with Zeus the swan, incorporates the wings of the god into the broad planes that dive across and define her torso. The toppling grace of Maillol’s La Mediterranee is recalled by River, where wide clean planar forms wipe their way down and through space. Striding form-ward to straddle a void, the U-shaped yoke in Rainbow Figure supports a featureless head whose few simple volumes continue and elaborate the slight torque begun below.

Accompanying the sculptures are groups of drawings. Some, in chalk and body color, deal with the motifs of the sculptures. They are aggressively worked with the stump and are laid with color just sufficient to set their moods. Whatever their relationship to the three-dimensional pieces they stand up as accomplished independent works.

Mary Frank’s accomplishment as an artist is of that special variety which,bringing into focus a personal visionary world, offers the very keen pleasures of a poetic apprehension of reality along with the more purely perceptual satisfaction of experiencing each of her unique forms.

Dennis Adrian