The puns abound in 'Party of Three' Review: Stanley Marcus' aluminum sculptures are an enigmatic mix of the human, the religious and ... furniture.

September 09, 1996|By Diane Scharper | Diane Scharper,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"The Lionized One" sits at the center of "Party Of Three," the sculptural installation by Stanley Marcus at the Jewish Community Center's Norman and Sarah Brown Art Gallery. Looking at this life-sized, welded-and-cast-aluminum figure of a throne become person or person become throne, one wonders: Is this God? Or is this some nightmarish hybrid?

"The Lionized One" has the flowing hair and beard, blazing eyes, prominent cheekbones and high forehead of an Old Testament prophet. But he has the shoulders and chest of a box or the back of a chair. His arms are chair arms -- with hands. His feet are attached to chair legs. Kneeling before him is a curved figure holding a chalice.

Called "The Acolyte," the curved figure is also of cast aluminum. It has a rounded, graceful shape suggestive of a veiled female body, realistic hands and feet, but no face. To its right is another sculpture called "The Praying Court."

This figure is actually a bench, whose back consists of four realistically rendered faces: a young woman with open supplicating lips, two middle-age men and an old woman with her lips open to reveal teeth having large spaces between them. The seat part of the bench spells the word, "Revere."

This is "revere," as in Revere cooking ware and as in reverence. In his artist's statement, Marcus, who created the 27 figures in this exhibit, explains that "The Lionized One" reigns alone and revered, as he provides occasion for the party.

Marcus, sculptor, professor emeritus at the University of Texas and author, is referring to "The Cocktail Party," which is a smaller show within the larger show, "The Party Of Three." His explanation, though, is only one of the verbal and visual puns abounding here, since "The Party Of Three" refers to the specific grouping just described, as well as the title of the show. It also suggests the author's intention of bringing together the sculpture, the sculptor and the viewer.

What can one make of these enigmatic figures? Most are life-sized or larger, although there are a few smaller pieces. Most have realistically rendered faces. Men have bald heads; women have flowing hair. Ties are painted on box-shaped bodies. Some wear shoes; some wear sandals; some carry pocketbooks; some hold cigars. Some have tail feathers. Sometimes their hands extend from the arms of a chair. Sometimes their legs are the legs of a chair, but these legs are hairy and lined, like skin, and have feet -- replete with arches and insteps and toes.

They have names such as "George Doesn't Get It," "The Harpy," "The Lecher," "The Baldheaded American Banking Eagle," "Red Hot and Blue," "The Two Horned Player" and "Sallie May."

They are part nightmare, part whimsy, part social commentary. Irony personified, they are deeply religious while satirizing religion. They are patriotic while satirizing patriotism. They are mute, yet their mouths are open as if speaking.

They are human and chairs ("Julie Chair"), or human and musical instruments ("Picture Of A Song") or human and birds ("The Harpy" and "Baldheaded American Banking Eagle"), or human and mountains ("George Doesn't Get It"). They have no emotion yet reveal all the complexities of human emotion.

"Sallie May," perhaps the most memorable piece in the show, wears a pie-shaped 18th century gown, but her upper torso forms a dagger that thrusts into her skirt. A pun on the biblical character, Salome, Sallie May holds a tray on which rests a pitcher curving into the benevolent face of St. John the Baptist.

Her own face has large, ferocious eyes, a nose that resembles pair of scissors, an open mouth ready to emit insane laughter, and sharply pointed teeth. The embodiment of the look that kills, this is the hostess of a cocktail party one can never forget.

'Party of Three'

Where: Norman and Sarah Brown Art Gallery, Jewish Community Center, 5700 Park Heights Ave.

When: Mondays and Tuesdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesdays, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Fridays, noon to 2: 30 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. Through Nov. 3

Call: (410) 542-4900, Ext. 239

Admission: Free

Pub Date: 9/09/96

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