Despite their hybrid origins in the biomorphic Surrealism of Hans Arp, the figurative muscularity of Henry Moore and the impassioned murals of Jose Clemente Orozco, Erwin Binder’s sculptures seem curiously classical and conservative in their impact and intent. The Philadelphia-born ex-jeweler and painter has spent much of the last 20 years in Mexico, where he was initially drawn to the monumentality of both pre-Columbian art and the rich 20th-Century tradition of muralists.
Binder has subsumed these influences--with their flagrant sexuality, political awareness and obsession with death and suffering--into a more overtly Modernist vocabulary, quoting Arp’s flowing lines and bulbous protuberances, and the English School’s predilection for solemn weightiness and low center of gravity.
If anything, Binder’s latest works in bronze, marble and onyx suggest an even greater homogenization of style, stressing specifically sculptural concerns such as balance, space, volume and mass over purely organic or emotive resonance. This is a loss rather than a gain, for compared with the erotic symbolism of such wall reliefs as “Fertility Goddess” or “Venus,” the sculptures appear safe, hermetic and far too respectful of their sources. (Heritage Gallery, 718 N. La Cienega Blvd., to Feb. 1.)