Witty contrasts enliven Galerie Francoise sculptures

August 09, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Some artists have a tendency to repeat themselves, but not Allyn Massey. She always has something fresh to say, which is definitely the case with her "Poke Box" in Galerie Francoise's current sculpture show.

It's a simple enough piece at first glance -- a chevron shape in steel attached to the wall, with a black sheet of rubber hanging from it. A row of holes has been drilled into the chevron shape, and from one projects a several-inch-long metal rod.

That's all, but it adds up to a lot. There's geometry here, but also sensual pleasure in the contrast of solid steel and almost liquid rubber. The piece contains elements of both symmetry and asymmetry, so there's an implied bow to both the classical and the romantic traditions.

And Massey throws in a row of ridges just along the top of the chevron that looks positively baroque in contrast with the taut smoothness and restraint of the rest of the work. Not even an artist as good as Massey can come up to this level all the time, and her other contribution here, "Starcatcher," doesn't.

Massey's one of a number of artists in this show, called "Sculpture: Off the Table," whose works manage to communicate even though they don't shout.

Karen Acker's porcelain creature sitting on three steel legs looks like a misshapen caterpillar, or maybe a snake that's just ingested a big meal. But there's something human about it, too. This is one of those Acker pieces that, in a surrealist way, says something about the struggles of the human psyche; they evoke a feeling of pity that shows they're related to us.

Quentin Moseley's "Monument I" has something human about it in a far more literal way. Its blue neon element is a stylized torso on legs, and its neon-lighted wooden element looks like a pair of legs carrying the lower half of a rotund torso.

Moseley's got a sense of humor, and this jaunty piece is one of several in this show that bring forth a smile, or even a laugh.

Leonard Streckfus' animals made from junk always do, and his "Wild Boar," made from old tires and women's shoes and stuff like that, is no exception. David Hess puts a football helmet on a bowling tenpin to give his title "Super Bowl" a double meaning.

And Arthur Janson, a new name to me, contributes a delightful change of pace with "Two Cans from the Island of Taiwan." In a bird cage are two can-like shapes and several small treadmills run by electricity. They move around and in the process emit twittering sounds that make you think there's a bird around if you're not actually looking at the thing.

One immediately thinks of Jean Tinguely's kinetic art, but also of the works of Paul Klee, which often look childlike but have an underlying profundity. Janson makes a statement about both the futility and the charm of life with this contraption.


What: "Sculpture/Off the Table"

Where: Galerie Francoise et ses freres, Green Spring Station, Falls and Joppa roads

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Sept. 7

Call: (410) 337-2787.

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