Sculptors Ilan Averbuch, Jene Highstein, Ulrich Ruckriem and Wade Saunders may not be cut from the same mold, but their group show at the C. Grimaldis Gallery is still a harmonious gathering. There is a shared respect in their work for stone and wood that have been shaped without losing all sense of rough natural origins.
Ulrich Ruckriem, for instance, likes to use dolomite and slate. His untitled column and floor piece are carefully crafted sculptures in which his penchant for geometrical order is expressed through sectioned blocks that leave no doubt as to who is in charge here: the sculptor, not his material. And yet for all the logical calm of these pieces, Ruckriem obviously doesn't mind the cracks running across a smooth stone plane like seismic fault lines.
More elemental is Ilan Averbuch's oak and lead "Pomegranets," which has a deliberate roughness in the carved wood armature and metal crowns of these fruit-evoking forms. And this sculptor really gets down to earth with his "The Shadow of the Sun," in which stone wedges come together to form a crude circle. A carved ring around the empty center is filled with water, reinforcing the feeling that this floor-hugging sculpture is a primitive construction made from the most basic elements. If I were a Druid, I'd dance around this stone ring and worship the sun. Thank goodness I'm not a Druid.
Jene Highstein carves large sections of elm in ways that make direct allusions. His "Roller" is, yes, a big ball on the floor, and his upright "Window" is a sinuously curving post in which a window-like opening has been carved near the top.
The most complex allusions and ordering relationships are to be found in the silk thread-enhanced granite sculptures of Wade Saunders. In the four stacked granite sections comprising "Madurai," for example, one can immediately see that the sculptor has very precise mathematical formulas guiding his carving hand. In this and other pieces, however, the rationale behind each incision is likely to elude the non-mathematicians among us.
More easily grasped by those of us who majored in the humanities is Saunders' strategic use of red silk threaded between the granite sections. On a purely sensory level, the bright and delicate silk is a pleasing contrast to the dull solidity of the granite.
But on the more complicated level of cultural referencing, the silk prompts us to think of the temple sculptures in India that were once dressed up, too. And the bands of silk placed in the carved out pockets of "Rameswaran" evoke what might be termed the loom philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, who encouraged Indians to turn to home industries such as weaving.
Sculptors Ilan Averbuch, Jene Highstein, Ulrich Ruckriem and Wade Saunders exhibit at the C. Grimaldis Gallery, at 1006 Morton St., through Feb. 1. Call (410) 539-1080.