Los Angeles

Anthony Berlant

David Stuart Gallery

Anthony Berlant attained a measure of notoriety during his inveterate tinkering phase (with patterned metal scraps fashioned into noisome little reliquaries). This obsession, worshipful as it was of the puerile and the innocent, seemed affecting only after having witnessed the artist absorbed among his rusty collections of trivia, looming in piles from cookie tins. The process of gathering, clipping, editing and assembling his inane materials contained more animus than the finished results, whether merely whimsical (as most were) or didactically pretentious (the wargames). Obviously this was not as it should have been and we had Kienholz’s serious, unnerving presences to force contrast. The unavoidable outcome was that one more or less dismissed Berlant’s as an earnest but forgettable effort. Now, following upon the environmental Marriage of New York and Athens of 1966, Berlant’s production has become more ambitious in its magnified scale. But the grosser works (especially Blue Eyed Blonde, executed in several sizes) remain as blown-up versions of the little ones, having more the character of wry Brobdingnagian toys than of lastingly evocative esthetic objects. It is not inappropriate that the shiny aluminum plated Marriage was entered in a competition for “playground art,” apparently as an afterthought; in this context it seemed very much at home. In another set of conditions among the “monumental” Sculpture in the City exhibition at Century Plaza—Berlant’s biggest piece, Forest (a conglomerate of green varnished plywood towers) is difficult to handle either from within its corridors or from without. One doesn’t know quite how to reconcile the childlike guilelessness of the thing with its sensed claims to being grown-up, serious and art.

Jane Livingston