At Galerie Francoise, a Leonard Streckfus dog called "Mixed Breed" has a body made of wooden chair parts, a metal head that used to be an electric fan base and floppy ears that were once high-heeled shoe soles. "Mixed Breed" stands on a David Hess bed called "Tune Banging," with the metal harp of a piano as the headboard and bowling ball feet.
Galerie Francoise has just moved to new, smaller quarters across the courtyard at Green Spring Station from its original location, and the space's inaugural exhibit is so much fun it will lift your spirits and send you away determined to return again and again. Although the year's not quite over, this is hereby designated the happiest art exhibit of 1991.
A better match for a two-person show can hardly be imagined than Leonard Streckfus' sculptures made of junk and David Hess' furniture, also made partly with junk or at least recycled materials. Streckfus has received a lot of exposure thanks to his dolphins in the fountain at the National Aquarium's Marine Mammal Pavilion. But those are necessarily cast in bronze, to withstand exposure. The sculptures at Galerie Francoise, made of 100 percent genuine junk, are more fun and make their serious point a little better, too.
Up on one wall is a "Marlin" made of bicycle parts (Streckfus uses a lot of bicycle parts), a Christmas tree stand (he uses a lot of those, too), a crutch and a croquet mallet head, among other things, including maybe a broom handle (it's not always quite possible to figure out what everything is, divorced from whatever it was originally part of).
A "Dolphin Head" employs a tractor cowl and an applesauce strainer, a Christmas idea for the farmer who has everything. "Cowboy Boots" are made of old coffee cans, which is a little more imaginative than my re-use of coffee cans as receptacles for kitchen grease.
Streckfus' work has its serious side, of course. The message is about recycling instead of trashing the environment, and an admirable message it is. One can say the same of Hess' sculptural but functional furniture. And now that we've paid our dues, we can sit back (way back) in Hess' "Agricultural ReKleiners," a pair of chairs with backs made out of a plow, rest our drink on his "Mustang Sally," a table made with a rocking horse and a lawn mower, and pen a paean to these delightful artists on his "Writin' Words," a desk with a writing surface made from a cut-down Camaro hood.
Gallery owner Mary Jo Gordon, in the spirit of it all, has turned the gallery into sort of a bed-sitting room complete with Oriental rugs on the floor and old pictures on the walls for that comfy-homey flavor. Perfect.
The Streckfus/Hess show continues through Dec. 8 at Galerie Francoise, Green Spring Station at Falls and Joppa Roads. Call (410) 337-2787.