New York

Mel Kendrick

John Weber Gallery

To judge from current fare in the galleries there seems to be some kind of crisis of confidence in sculpture these days. Sculpture is being made, but what is surfacing lacks any real excitement. Too many sculptors are content to work away at ideas that have already received adequate attention.

MEL KENDRICK makes use of a rhetoric of structure, building spatial frameworks from a counterpoint of rhyming shapes. Each piece is a network of chunky wooden beams tied together by prominently displayed bolts and colored in what can only be described as painterly fashion. The application of paint is obviously crucial to Kendrick, something to be worried over. He wants to do it, but fears his work may then be contaminated with the dread taint of illusionism. To counter this, and still indulge his painterly bent, he sands down his surfaces to expose their underlying structure.

The bowing of some of these struts gives the work a hint of movement, of contained tension, but the geometric base of the work is ultimately static. As a result it remains predictable and in the end it is only the artist’s contrary painterly impulses that insinuate a certain interest. The rubbed-down, exposed look, revealing layers of paint with the wood itself showing underneath, adds an expressive dimension that serves to distract attention from the labored, “constructed” appearance of the work as a whole.

More than this, it provides a clue to the more serious shortcomings of the work. Kendrick seems most interested in delineating a space, in making a spatial drawing. But the literal execution of this idea fails to be compelling, in part because of the tired nature of the rhetoric surrounding it. One cannot help feeling that the artist’s intentions would have been better served had they remained on paper; drawings rather than sculpture. In placing some of his smaller pieces on the wall, Kendrick seems to be on the brink of acknowledging this.

Thomas Lawson