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LA CIENEGA AREA

One of the great things about superior art is that it renews faith in simple things. It proves, in the case of Mel Kendrick’s new show of wood sculpture, that it’s still possible to express something fresh in what might be considered an exhausted language.

Kendrick labors in sculpture’s Constructivist tradition that began in the 1920s. Currently he shows a dozen or so pieces, built of laminated chunks of rough-cut timber, along with a couple of bronze sculptures cast from wood. All are baroque constructions, growing from the bottom up and usually placed on an integrated table or pedestal, but similarity ends there.

The degree of invention and muscular vigor he instills in his work gives each piece a personality that alters as you track it in the round. Working with every wood from ordinary brown stuff to expensive rosewood and exotic purple heart, Kendrick stacks arcs and angular forms, drills holes, routs circles and lets glue ooze from the cracks. As the sculpture branches and turns, it progresses from zigzag edges and dot patterns to rounded volumes, precariously positioned.

People who need to find references to real life in abstract art will certainly identify twisted torsos and dancing figures in Kendrick’s new work, but here is abstraction so spirited that it makes you question the need for obvious figuration. (Margo Leavin Gallery, 812 N. Robertson Blvd., to Dec. 21.)

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