New York

David Von Schlegell

Royal Marks Gallery

At the Royal Marks Gallery David Von Schlegell shows two immense pieces coursing and flung the length of the gallery. Each piece is conceived as intervals of swooping planes. One piece has three such large off-square fins which scallop off curving chunks of space as the forms progressively decline. These fins are kept apart and together with struts, cables and turnbuckles. The sloop-like progression of forms has aerated intervals whose tensions and dynamic interrelations are diagrammed by the aluminum struts and steel cables.

The second and longer piece consists of two smaller planes, more sharply curved and eccentric in shape (lenticular in section) which are kept apart by an extended poniard, whose diminution toward a point both makes and suggests an exhilarating foreshortening. Again, struts and bolt mountings diagram and physically determine the relationships of the two curved planes to the long narrowing form separating them.

Von Schlegell’s control of both scale and craft is so expert that the necessary fitments and workings do not interfere with his compositions, but help articulate them.

The artist is certainly now in his maturity, despite his fairly brief exhibition history. The evidence of his ripeness is in the successful variety of his compositions in all sizes, and the increasing expertise of technique and execution that are such a satisfying aspect of his work.

The issues facing the artist now have to do with the esthetic implications of size and scale, rather than the development of a language of form, or a satisfactory way to give it being. Along with a number of primary structure sculptors, the issue of gigantism, and the limits of perception in an Aristotelian sense, have led Von Schlegell in these and other pieces to work large enough to rival the prodigious feats of industrial technology; for the primary structure people, the logical end is a kind of impenetrable architecture, like the pyramids. Von Schlegell, however, has a kind of form that is related to giant technological apparatus—the jet liner or the ship, and already his size and scale suggest that elements of his pieces have been cut out, or literally abstracted from some such larger entity. The fortuitousness of this present situation in his work is not open to question, but the implications of this kind of form are things with which the artist will have to deal with soon. The strut and cable articulation of the latest work provides, in a way, a kind of obstacle to further development of the other formal units: these former members provide a degree of elaboration and detail which the large pieces require if their scale is to be correctly apprehended by the viewer. An alternate means of achieving this necessary relationship would be with more complex unit forms articulated in some simpler and more direct way. The practical difficulties of assembly and shipment are great, then, in such big works, but if the artist is to maintain his identity as a sculptor rather than as metteur en scene the problems must be faced in some way. Considering the phenomenal growth and development on all fronts which has marked Von Schlegell’s work to date, there is every reason to anticipate some radical solution and development of the questions that the work in his present show put forth as they amply fulfill the kind of sculptural ideas he has been working with over the past two or three seasons.

Von Schlegell’s constructed lyricism is rather an anomaly in the current climate of androgynous conceptualism in sculpture; his virile elegance has thrust aside the febrile hand-de-Creefted work endemic just five seasons ago. Surely his creative momentum is not yet spent, but just comes now to full force.

Dennis Adrian