Jon Isherwood and John Ruppert, two of the three sculptors in this month's Grimaldis show, investigate relationships between the natural and the man-made worlds.
Isherwood takes huge pieces of rock and, by smoothing out sides, slicing through them or creating interior spaces, suggests man's aspirations and ambitions, with references to both past and future.
His "Guardian," with its naturally rough sloping side and its smoothed-down vertical side punctuated by a mouth-like slit, reminds us of the mysterious stone sculptures of Easter Island -- not just because it looks a little like one, which it does, but because its quiet monumentality suggests an icon, an object of reverence, a reflection of the human desire for more than this earthly existence.
Similar thoughts are prompted by "Petra," a rock with a vertically hollowed-out center and several slits penetrating through the sculpture's front to that interior space. It recalls the lofty cathedrals of the Middle Ages, also monuments in stone to a grandiose concept of man's place in the universe.
And the aptly titled "Oracle" looks like a simpler, even more ancient place of worship cut into a mountainside, as well as a site for a city of the future carved right into the core of the Earth.
What we do with nature, all these works imply, is destroy its integrity to assert our superiority. And we are often successful, for Isherwood's sculptures possess implications of scale and power that similarly sized, untouched pieces of rock would lack.
John Ruppert's "Split Rock" makes a somewhat different point. He has taken a natural rock, unsculptured, and reproduced it in bronze. Looking at the two side by side makes you see things that would be overlooked if either stood alone: surfaces, textures, colors, contrasts of light and dark. The implication here is that man and nature working together in harmony enhance rather than violate one another. But eventually nature wins -- you begin to notice imperfections in the bronze that do not mar the solid integrity of the rock.
Ruppert's "Vertical Flash -- Scoop" reproduces in bronze a fragment of a tree hit by lightning. It attests to the energy and the destructive power of nature.
Elizabeth Turk, the third sculptor here and a newcomer to Grimaldis, is at something of a disadvantage in this show. In the presence of the elemental force of Ruppert's and Isherwood's works, her more calculated, partly figurative work looks academic and precious. Another context probably would have suited her better.
What: "A Sculpture Show: Jon Isherwood, John Ruppert, Elizabeth Turk"
Where: The C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 N. Charles St.
When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Jan. 28
Call: (410) 539-1080