Sharon Engelstein's recent sculptures at Wilding Cran read as curious sketches in hybridity. They marry the animate and inanimate, soft and sharp, graceful and coarse.
Mostly formed of clay, they also incorporate bits of stone, chunks of copper and touches of gold leaf. Their glossy, glazed surfaces drop strong hints of both the organic and the industrial, the whites and off-whites spurring associations with milk, bone and eggshell, but also with the hygienic neutrality of bathroom fixtures.
Ten of the Houston artist's pieces sit atop a platform stretching the length of the gallery, each a specimen resisting categorization, a self-possessed challenge.
“Leg Foot” is the class clown of the bunch, a cartoonish prosthetic, tubular and bulbous. If Brancusi had envisioned a napping cat, he might have come up with something akin to “Sleeper,” a distilled, rounded weight folding over itself. To one elegant, sensuous haunch, Engelstein has affixed an odd, messy little adjunct assembly of planes and daubs that serves as a vessel for crushed moonstone.
Darker undercurrents charge “Blind Mask,” a wall-mounted breastplate of sorts, with rippled, irregular edges and two tiny eyeholes spilling gold tears. In earlier work, Engelstein embedded glass eyes into clay, and here, the ocular voids provide a similar jolt of the uncanny, of something given yet largely concealed, familiar but strange and ominous.
Wilding Cran Gallery, 939 S. Santa Fe Ave., L.A. Closes Sunday. (213) 553-9190, www.wildingcran.com