New York

Mel Kendrick

John Weber Gallery

Mel Kendrick’s new sculptures remind one so inevitably of early Picasso and Brancusi and of the African art that influenced those artists that they could almost be called quotational. The works are living-room size—smaller than a human torso, and mounted at a convenient viewing level on wooden and metal stoollike stands. They are carved out of wood with a power saw and compiled by accretion of pieces with a classical Modernist vocabulary of curves, serrations, holes, and angles. On the one hand they suggest something of timeless esthetic feeling, while they also resemble certain quasi-conceptual post-Modern statements in the attention drawn to the pedestals or stands, in the allusions to early classical Modernism and early Modernist primitivism, and in the emphases on hand carving, on the lush presence of the natural material, and on a traditional type of esthetic appeal like that of tonal music.

It is interesting to speculate that sculpture is running a post-Modern path parallel to painting in its increasing revival of classical styles and modes of allusion. But a question raises itself in relation to Kendrick’s sculpture about the conceptual element so present in much quotational painting. The pieces here are esthetically too convincing, or too easily convincing. The presence of the wood is sumptuous and seductive, the modulated presence is musical, even the stands are attractive to the eye while modest and retiring. The work is too perfect to be a joke and too familiar to be an invention. It is a rhetorical exercise in design, like those successful examples of forgeries that were assigned in ancient rhetorical schools, and which entered the corpus of literature trailing question marks in their wake.

Thomas McEvilley