New York

Winifred Lutz

Marilyn Pearl Gallery

With all her classically good skill intact, Winifred Lutz’s new works are something of a disappointment. The large standing piece composed of triangulated towers is so handsome in material and execution as to detract from its possible toughness; her door/ archway so minimal as to be incomplete; the wall pieces, framed and presented as collaged drawings, so busy and clever as to be confusing and weak.

The tower, composed of two jutting, angled planes and a compressed passage in between, embodies exactly those attributes that made former works sculpturally impressive—perfected tension and balance, and especially an insistence on constant movement in and around the piece. What is new is the slickness of the wood, perfectly planed and finished. Pegged together carefully, pieces alternated between the horizontal and the vertical to give a surface pattern to the work. Again, each element is carefully considered and unquestionably handsome. Yet the incisiveness of earlier works is missing.

At one time, Lutz’s concern for directionality was voiced in terms of linear frames of wood or metal. She concentrated on placement and gesture to draw the viewer into and around each piece. Visibility was total at all times, since pieces were most often open. With a seemingly spontaneous process, these earlier pieces contrasted their unfinished materials with total academic care for planar movement. The combination was effective and startling. With a change toward enclosed and solid elements in more recent work, some of the energy fled. Her concentration on vertical shapes juxtaposed with each other focused the energy on placement, on passages between pieces and not on overall linear flow.

The further concentration on surface elegance in this new piece serves only to draw attention away from the crucial spaces at play in the work. Because of the carefully planned patterning of the wood panels the emphasis shifts to the final product, rather than implying anything of the initial building process. In the standing towers, this minimizes the effectiveness of the planes and angles cutting through the forms on the outer surface. For the purposes of this piece, the method and the material are detrimental to the work.

On the other hand, a low-lying floor piece uses the slickness of the material as a visual pun working within the context of sculptural deception. Built as a low rectangular platform, it first appears as a mutely self-enclosed slab, with narrow slits in the top. On closer inspection, the slits become inverted triangle trenches with unexpected shape and depth. The openings bring back the element of surprise, and only work well because of their quality of displacement in the perfect setting.

The floor piece regulates the towers to transitional work, as if Lutz were reluctant to give up old concerns as new ones developed. Her interest in compressed openings reads better in the floor piece, where extraneous movement is totally eliminated, than in the carefully placed spaces of the large tower. Bulk seems to demand more crudeness of execution; slickness and fine finishing work better with a concentration on thematic content. Lutz’s floor piece does just that—making a slick presentation in order to convey a subtle point. Open and closed, or (as Lutz announces) portal and passage, become dominant only when old habits are left behind.

Similarly, the many drawings hung in the show combine handmade paper with wooden pieces, alternately placing one as background material and one as drawing material. Narrow wooden panels form a shallow ground in one piece, with collages of paper and sticks placed inside. Again, Lutz’s impressive productivity and ties to past work detract from her new effectiveness. Better to leave out so many jumbled references to wood and paper and paper-making processes than to dilute the intensity of their effect so strongly, with a determination to make as many variations as possible on an already explored theme. Lutz has effectively transcended her materials and prolific output with the highly effective platform. One hopes she will develop this interest and direction.

Deborah Perlberg