Los Angeles

Amalia Schulthess

Esther-Robles Gallery

When one gets right down to it, the old Bauhaus notion that the artist is obligated to respect the “integrity of the material,” whether it be wood, paper, steel or stone, not only isn’t an inviolable dictum but means very little until it is violated. This, at any rate, is the most diverting reflection occasioned from Amalia Schulthess’s current exhibition of sculpture at Esther-Robles. We have seen Schulthess’s progress over the years in a fairly even, if diverse, formal direction. Because she clings basically to the tried and true vocabulary of modern European sculpture, she is able to make her departures within the given framework intelligible precisely as such. Her interest in materials—in the Bauhaus sense—has led her to explore their capabilities in manifold ways. For example, Torso Grande (1967) is a piece of polished white marble formed into a rounded shape and looking like a Platonic archetype of white marble abstract sculpture. Another, Torso, however, of a similar solid, rounded configuration, and looking from a distance quite like any number of rough-surfaced stone sculptures one might have seen, is made of bronze. Simply, the surface is handled in a way which contradicts one’s sense of what bronze should look like.

More obvious, in a distinctly clever way, is Schulthess’s treatment of bronze to simulate wood. Sedia del Re (1967) is a modest chair within an 18-inch-high box. A panel on top of the box moves to let in a shaft of light. It is all bronze, carefully cast to simulate wood. There is a sort of humorous momentary pleasure in discovering the trompe l’oeil, besides the fact that the warmth and texture and weight of the bronze is finer than that of polished wood. On the whole, Schulthess’s deliberate experiments in contradicting the orthodox uses of materials are far more interesting than her essays within a conventional sculptural vocabulary.

Jane Livingston