New York

Ruth Vollmer

Betty Parsons Gallery

Ruth Vollmer showed her sculptural explorations of the sphere at the Betty Parsons Gallery. Diluted post-Bauhaus, warmed over into modestly scaled modern Minimal, was the overall look of the models and large pieces. Although elegant, well-made and cleverly conceived, there was little else which raised these works above the rather mechanical exercises in organization and dynamics (some of the pieces float or rock, or suggest variability) which they appear to be. What was best demonstrated is that a bit of sophistication and good fabricating can go a long way these days to accomplish a look which convinces many that some important creation sits before them. I am not so convinced anymore.

Spun bronze, aluminum, and copper are the materials Miss Vollmer has chosen for her skewed hemispheres, dome, and hollowed spheroid models and larger works. In Relation Three to Four (seen also in the Whitney Annual this season), a spun aluminum sphere is partially excavated from the cross section of its 20-inch diameter out along a radial arc; within this space four square aluminum sleeves are fitted where they may be interchangeably inserted or slipped back and forth across the sphere’s equator. Hemispheric domes are laid flatly awry along their sliced surfaces, forming skewed discs, and gleaming concavities are interrupted by convex pockets inversely reflecting the absent forms. Figure of Half Revolution is a big silvery aluminum rocker—a half-sphere whose volume is scooped out on two sides, it can be rotated and tilted, though it seems to obey its own internal rhythm.

Nevertheless, I find myself unenthusiastic before such characteristically competent evidence of the sculptural accomplishments of the sixties: smart industrial look and production, immaculately buffed or uniformly colored surfaces (epoxy, fiberglass, metal, painted wood, whatever), free or complex geometry, or monuminimal simplicity—these are only a few of the things in which the sculptors of the decade have schooled themselves. But the lessons seem to have been assimilated, and recent forays away from this hard-nosed esthetic into earthworks, soft, formless substances, or unrespectable, even disintegrating materials begin to look more exciting. They offer at least one possible and necessary antidote to the dwindling conceptual interest and formal energy of such trim, finished, and by now conventional work, with its roots in the already historic post Cubist, post Bauhaus past.

Emily Wasserman