New York

Mel Kendrick

A.M. Sachs Gallery

Seemingly uncomplicated, Mel Kendrick’s wire mesh and wood constructions are relatively uncluttered geometrical shapes. Each wall-mounted sculpture has a clear outline. The interest comes in when Kendrick folds the single piece of wire mesh, so that shadows and lines form on the wall behind the piece. With the addition of several wood or metal bars behind the mesh, space becomes three-dimensional. The added parts cause highlights and shadows that become more and more complex as you begin to distinguish ever subtler shapes of light and dark within each piece. Painted a bright blue overall, each modification on his basic theme provides a contrasting exploration into geometrical subtleties. Though each piece depends on actual three-dimensional planes to give the desired effect, the pieces are approached from a head-on, frontal confrontation that is more painterly than sculptural. Each relies on three-dimensionality to convey essentially two-dimensional information.

Quonset is the only curved piece in the show, supported by a wooden armature and bisected by a dead-center cross formation. Like most of the other pieces, this one is reminiscent of early Constructivist works. Transparent layers, no construction points hidden, the pieces reveal their inner workings and depend on them for content. The outside shadows, an extension of the perimeter of the actual piece, also adds interest to each construction. A close examination of each piece is necessary, then, to appreciate just what is built and what is illusion. Yet the discovery is not a particularly exciting one. Kendrick’s pieces are not exactly boring, but they aren’t more than interesting. They lack dynamism, controlled instead to the point of smugness. The bright blue color is their most adventurous aspect.

Channel is typical of the square, straight-edged pieces that form the bulk of the show. Rectangular overall, one decisive fold slashes diagonally from top to bottom of the mesh. Behind it, two parallel wood strips brace against the wall. Shadows formed by the fold cause a triangular point to protrude beyond the essential shape, extending what would be the only form. Diagonal shadows of light parallel the line of the fold onto the wall in surprisingly thin strips. Again, the interior detail adds variation to the otherwise staid shape. Since the piece depends on a kind of visual trickery, however, the interest of discovering new shadows depends not so much on the actual construction as on chances of light and dark. Perhaps moving the sculptures or altering the lighting would produce variations that would make them more interesting and diverse. Otherwise, one would soon tire of their rather pedantic break-ups. They’re clean-looking and make good use of the folded line as a gimmick but need to depend less on predictable elements and to add visual excitement through the construction of each piece, its layers and backbone. The shadow works not so much as a building element as an illusion become solid—but a truly solid construction of increased complexity could bolster the toughness and originality of the work more than the present subtle approach. The basic sculptures are fine, well handled but carefully limited to a single thematic exploration. They need to be taken a step or two further.

Deborah Perlberg