New Yorker Tom Aprile says his suite of crawling, ambling works made from wood and wooden embellishments evolved from a “simple fascination with line,” the curl of it in carved furniture, the craggy course of it up a tree stem. What Aprile crafts is anything but simple. He sands and polishes sections of blond straited wood to smooth glistening wave forms reminiscent of the slick body of an unshelled snail. To these he seamlessly fuses strange antennae or appendage-like protrusions from raw, unaltered tree branches, adding as final touches bits of old furniture fenestration like elaborate claw-like cabinet feet or bed post knobs.
Wall-hung pieces can suggest a crawling slug or, as in “Ripe,” a serpent with an arched head and forked-branch tongue propped on a body that is the right angle of a picture frame and waving a tail that looks like the carved coil of a stringed instrument. The free-standing “Bough” begins with a conical pedestal of expertly tooled and polished wood. Out of this comes a vertical raw branch that oozes into a crudely worked supine S. The S-shape comes to rest in an adjacent free-standing tree branch that’s propped on little forked legs with prancing feet borrowed from flagpole ornaments.
Aprile makes the transitions from one type of wood to another look completely organic so that the works have the eerie, convincing look of mutating matter, part animal, part mineral, part vegetable. Work this eccentric can come off as either thoroughly naive or innocently visionary, like Miro’s strange organisms or (closer to home) the sculpted wood forms of James Surls. At their most accomplished, Aprile’s works fall firmly in the latter camp. (Wenger Gallery, 828 N. La Brea Ave., to April 26.)