Joel Casique, artist in progress

September 20, 1995|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

The sculptures of Venezuelan artist Joel Casique have a lot to recommend them, but they also reflect an artist who has some growing and deepening to do. You can't help liking this work, currently on display at Gomezeach element complements the other's qualities of color, texture and surface.

He has a fine sense of composition; sometimes it's too fine for the good of the work as a whole, which ends up looking over-calculated. But you have to admire the balanced asymmetry of "Walking Around," even as you wish it were a little less carefully balanced.

His forms can wittily suggest an animal or a human without being too specific. The artist Joan Erbe gave him an amusing-looking piece of wood that sort of resembles an animal head, and he put it together with a piece of stone and three big nails to create "Erbepotomus," an endearingly funny-sad beast. His "La Ormiga" the ant) doesn't look at all like an ant, but it manages to suggest a scampering, industrious creature.

Casique has something to say, too. In general, his handsome combinations of materials, as in "Walking Around" or "Crevice," suggest that nature and the man-made world can live together in harmony and beauty -- if we only put our minds to it.

And in particular, individual pieces transmit messages of their own. "Yo" (I) exudes both pride and vulnerability. "Altar" has a hierarchical quality one associates with religion; but its solid, definite shapes are crowned by an amorphous one, suggesting the irony of a rigid church erected in the name of God, an essentially indefinable concept.

For all its virtues, this work lacks a sense of true creative daring. It's just too pat. It shows knowledge and talent, but it needs to reflect the qualities of struggle and self-doubt that are required to create work of maturity and wisdom. It reminds me of a sign I saw once that read "Move out and get your own place while you still know everything." This sculptor knows everything he needs to know to get this far, but Casique can go farther than this. I'm betting he will.

Jose Villarrubia's computer-produced photographs of male and female nudes can also be seen at Gomez. They're a distinct improvement over earlier work in which he put wings on nudes or showed them in bodybuilder poses to suggest an art that, by satirizing titillating kitsch, rose above it.

L But what this artist really produced was titillating kitsch.

Villarrubia's recent work still has a lot to do with sex, but the approach is less blatant and more effective. The best picture here is "Communion." It shows only a young man's head, but the expression leaves no doubt about what sort of communion we're talking about.

At Gomez Gallery

What: Works by Joel Casique and Jose Villarrubia

Where: 836 Leadenhall St.

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturdays, through Oct. 7.

Call: (410) 752-2080

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