New York

Ronald Grow

Stephen Radich Gallery

Ronald Grow’s exhibition of all-day sucker sculpture at the Radich Gallery is a most commendable New York debut. Granting that the burpy, improvisational vocabulary of this kind of assemblage amalgamates a wide range of topical ploys, in Grow’s work the topicality exudes a hip modernity rather than a poisonous dependency. The squirmy forms appear as well in the new Libermans, in the polished molten sheens of Paolozzi, in the trampoline hysterics of Steven Urry, in the formal and spatial discontinuities of Robert Hudson, in the elemental tubism of Peter Voulkos, in the automatic profiles of Gerald Laing. In fact a high English clip transforms much of Grow’s West Coast idiom.

Grow works with huge zinc-coated macaroni elbows cleverly fitted together into slinky forms that suggest the bodies of vast darning needles. This organic articulation is given a further twist with wing-like panes of colored plexiglass cut into automatically contoured shapes in the manner of Miró. The pieces hopelessly flit about like some great dud early-worm biplanes. Long, lopping steel sections generally form the center shaft. Confidently worming their way across the floor, they abruptly rise and, in mid-wicket, change back into first gear. Colored fins and flanges erectly jut forth from the insect-like bodies. One wants to read them as eyes, or rooster crowns. The organic whimsy belies the artist’s serious and wise confrontation of elemental, often geometric, forms. It seems to me that the strength of Grow’s talent lies less in the th-th-that’s all folks facility than in the incognito severeness and plainness of his formal contrasts.

Robert Pincus-Witten