Even in concrete and steel, sculpture has expressive range

September 03, 1992|By Robert Haskins | Robert Haskins,Contributing Writer

The components of a John Van Alstine sculpture are deceptively simple. Large, rough-hewn slabs of granite are connected to each other with found steel objects. At times, the massive slabs balance precariously; at others, they recline in lyric serenity. Their economy of expression seems a deliberate abjuration of the overwhelming barrage of styles and techniques characteristic of visual art in our time.

While an exhibit of new and recent pieces (most dated 1992) opening today at the C. Grimaldis Gallery certainly reinforces that impression, it is clear the artist's imagination is both subtle // and complex.

Glistening with mica, the imposing granite slabs of these pieces are not so much raw as they are pure and uncompromised in the beauty which they naturally possess. Their positions relative to each other and to their steel mounts are extremely fundamental, resulting in a visual style precise, objective and obsessive. Mr. Van Alstine's precision is never off-putting, however; the work's clarity allows us to absorb its character with unusual intensity.

And, through subtle variation of his basic structural premise, Mr. Van Alstine covers a wide expressive range in his work, from the seductive, untroubled recumbent image of "Sledge" (1992) to the dramatic tension of "Odalisque" (1989).

Indeed, the unvarying use of materials also allows a number of associations in these pieces. Some interesting issues are the relationship of size between the two granite slabs in a single work, as in "Aquila" (1992) and "Dos" (1992); of the relative position of the two slabs, as in "Odalisque" and "Pique a Terre III" (1990); and of the ratio of steel to stone, as in "Implement VII" (1992) and "Sacandaga Vessel" (1992).

Also on view are seven drawings by the artist in charcoal, pastel and gesso -- almost all of which were completed this year. At first glance, they may appear to be studies for the sculptures, but are in fact significant alternative expressions of the artist's principal concerns. Indeed, because they are essentially abstractions,

they frequently strike more deeply.

Sculpture exhibit

Where: C. Grimaldis Gallery, 1006 Morton St.

When: Through Sept. 26.

Call: (410) 539-1092.

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