New York

David von Schlegell

Reese Palley Gallery

David von Schlegell has changed in several respects. His earlier wing-like biomorphism was rendered even more intense through the induction of kinetic possibilities. This position has now been abandoned in favor of Constructivist giganticism. In a pragmatic sense von Schlegell also may be said to have moved, from the small enclosure of the Royal Marks Gallery to the huge exhibition floors of Reese Palley. One would have thought that the new locale would have served his work better. What is curious about Soho as an exhibition and studio area is the amount of color it imbues to works produced below Houston Street and created for exhibition there. Much of the depressed range of new sculpture can be traced to Soho as a specific geographic area—its jewel in the mire-like character, its reference to detritus. Here, in the grimy cast-iron loft buildings are still housed the New York rope industry, the small leather goods business, the little stamped tin producers. So pervasive is the sense of locale that speaking exaggeratedly one sees that there is no more sculpture out of Soho except that which is seen at the Bykert Gallery, perhaps the only northern extremity of interesting new art, whose affiliates all come from below Houston Street.

It is perhaps unfair to dump this all on Von Schlegell, this essentially extrinsic problem to the kind of expert engineered Constructivism at which he is past master since the kind of sculpture which von Schlegell makes does not immediately relate to the kind of colorism which Soho seems to impose upon its artists. But what I am getting at is that even Constructivism is subject to the pressures of the neighborhood. Rarely have I felt the problems of site, of artful section, piecing and reassembly more a response to the neighborhood than here in the face of von Schlegell’s apparently situationist-divorced art. The sculpture first takes into account size of room, scale of doorway, width of staircase, slope of passageway, height of ceiling, interruption of column: the non-associative method of von Schlegell has been tinged by the dye of Soho. Von Schlegell’s most ambitious, work, for example, like a gambrel roof turned upside down, split apart and separated, appears merely contrapuntal to the row of iron columns which runs down the gallery. Perhaps David Smith was right in insisting that the only place to view his works was in the broad fields of Bolton Landing. Such openness surely would have assisted von Schlegell’s works which now appear to have been undermined by too many Soho strategies.

Robert Pincus-Witten