Birds of a feather, and car parts, too

Art Review


Sculptor Leonard Streckfus' astonishing aviary of pigeons, pheasants and other feathered friends at Galerie Francoise are assembled from old car parts, bowling pins and similar industrial junk in the iconoclastic spirit of Picasso's famous 1943 collage of a bicycle seat and handlebars welded together in the shape of a bull's head.

The works recall the "poor art" materials of Italy's Arte Povera movement of the 1960s, as well as the mix-and-match collages of earlier Cubist, Futurist and Constructivist artists, the "combine" paintings of Robert Rauschenberg and the surreal box constructions of Joseph Cornell.

All of them, like Streckfus, found a weird beauty in the cast-off artifacts of a society based on mass production and planned obsolescence. They discovered that, when resurrected, such objects could be given new life as art.

Over the years, Streckfus has created a veritable menagerie of creatures - birds, fish, dogs, horses, even people (of a sort) - from humble materials. His output, as his friend and fellow sculptor Luigi Sansone once suggested, is an extended visual dissertation on the truth of the axiom that "the myth of life begins with the death of the object."

But such weighty philosophical concerns hardly intrude on the enjoyment of these magical pieces, through which Streckfus manages to convey a surprisingly broad spectrum of avian emotions, from the sweet insouciance of pigeons to the vaguely war-like menace of eagles and other great birds of prey.

The show runs through Saturday. The gallery is at 2360 W. Joppa Road, Green Spring Station in Lutherville. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Call 410-337-2787.

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