New York

Marilyn Lerner

Zabriskie Gallery

Offering herself some lively and refreshing alternatives to Minimal art or to other current trends such as process oriented sculpture, conceptualized projects, or earthworks, Marilyn Lerner makes her one-man debut at the Zabriskie Gallery. With accomplished craft Miss Lerner displays a heterogeneous group of laminated wood sculptures, sometimes encased in plastic, sprayed partially with bright color, softly dyed, varnished to a high gloss, or simply left to expose the natural textures of the different woods used in laminating. It is obvious from this first show that the printmaker turned sculptress is exploring as many ways as she can to work both with her preferred materials (a rich array of dark and light woods, variously treated) and with her most characteristic imagery (wave and ripple patterns, simple shafts or boxes, sleek runways). Already she has drawn from several perhaps too apparent sources, in her desire to give play to her own rather quirkily humorous sense of configuration and shaping. Although she does not yet seem to have one unilateral or concrete idea about how her work will develop, it is also good to see that she has so energetically probed and experimented with many possibilities.

Often the reference or basis for a piece will act positively, as in the two Encased Ripple(s) where plexiglass boxes hermetically seal off joined double-crested inclines—reminiscent of Lucas Samaras’s eerily boxed fetishes, but without the spooky psychological overtones. There is some feeling of confusion about her tendency to generalize forms (but not really to abstract them) and her instinct to represent specific phenomena such as wave crests, because she does not think truly abstractly. The pieces that Miss Lerner has achieved most successfully are the ones which retain a fairly close similarity to those natural phenomena she loves to depict. She is not committed psychologically to a fetishistic art, although the fine precision and repetition of certain techniques and forms give evidence of her interest in the special beauty and intensity of her materials. H. C. Westermann, William Schwedler, or William Wiley, all of whom serve as influences, are much more involved in a funky Surrealistic point of view, while Miss Lerner is more consonant with her own skills and potential when she indulges less in this kind of metaphysics of vision. Finnish Love Couch, a tiny piece composed of grid-patterned wooden shafts upholding a delicately sprayed blue curving couch-like shape, certainly takes off from the fantastic architecture of Schwedler’s paintings in a wry and enjoyable way, but works like Specific Pacific Ripple or The Golden Serpent of Third Avenue are closer to Miss Lerner’s own more personal and original expression and point to her most promising solutions. The latter is a long glossy floor piece of lightly stained strips of laminated wood, channeled irregularly and fluidly with smoothed depressions suggesting a beach hollowed out by eddying tidal pools, or perhaps some kind of nightmarishly disintegrating bowling alley. Bound for Singapore, a slender surfboard-shaped wall piece dyed in stripes of pale pink, blue, and yellow and bound with tinted nylon ropes of the same hues, looks like much more of a false lead than either the Serpent or another newer work, Four Crawling Forms. This group of funny little worming bridges slinks along the floor with a nice aplomb. The Barracuda Triptych is an earlier work also worth mentioning: three red wood columns are inlaid with horizontal stripes of lighter wood and are filled with casts of silvery ripples which emerge on top of the five-foot-square columns. This makes for a nice contrast between the simplified and formally arranged verticals and the enclosed, but also freer and more energized cores. Miss Lerner has provided herself with a great many options, and while it is too early to predict how she will put them to use, one hopes that she will be able to concentrate her own particular sensibility (and sense of humor, an important feature of the work) in at least one of the directions already explored.

Emily Wasserman