New York

P. R. Jenkins, Ralph Goings, Lila Katzen

Various Locations

P. R. Jenkins’ show at Allan Stone reminds us how much sculpture, during the fifties and sixties, interested in heavy materials and the gestural, has distrusted the look of meticulous craft. Though much minimal work depends on fine, even exquisite, finishing, such finishing rarely calls attention to the work’s technical expertise, more often, quietly, to its ascetic simplicity. But Jenkins’ work manifests intricate, painstaking care.

In the two works I liked best (both narrow, one three feet high, one three feet long), biomorphic forms, which are usually associated with spontaneity or the unconscious, have been imaginatively handled with conscious control––the surface is black metal inlaid with careful stripes in brass. These works are in the best sense objets d’art. Time and attention have clearly been lavished on exacting materials. This is the art of the creative joiner transposed into metal. Many of the smaller pieces are highlighted by placement on simple, well-made 19th-century furniture, itself the older product of taste and precision.

Ralph Goings at O. K. Harris is a realist. Strong and fresh, his light heightens the immediacy of his subject matter, mostly old pickup trucks parked, empty, and waiting. On the other hand his color and modeling are both cool and immaculate. This contrast between directness and distance removes Goings’ work interestingly from the simplicity of bare recording.

Last year Dan Flavin used black lights excitingly but brutally. He placed such a number of strong ones in a room at the Jewish Museum so that not only did people’s clothes glow but eyes ached and the room seemed to jump. Lila Katzen, at the Hutchinson Gallery, shows that black light can be used in gentler and more intimate ways too. Flavin’s lights were so strong they created a striking atmosphere, but could not themselves be examined. Katzen’s lights, far smaller and less intense, are, on the contrary, integrated into her work; they are visual elements in it as well as sources of light.

Her pieces are cool, glowing jewels. Small pockets containing liquid, strewn on or near the lights, produce a palette of luminous pastels. Bases are plastic or metal. Often looping above the light, many of them protect the enclosed lighted volume like shells. There is only one unfortunate note. Nearly all the sculptures have been installed on one of two continuous strips of dark grey carpet. This lends them a sense of continuing series they could well do without. Most of them are quite fine enough to be enjoyed individually.

Jean-Louis Bourgeouis