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2 Sculptors Display Light, Dark Visions

However unintentionally, a show of new sculpture by two local artists at Palomar College’s Boehm Gallery divides itself into commentaries on life and death.

Anne Mudge’s constructions fill her portion of the gallery with ebullient life-energy, a ceaseless urge toward creation and procreation. On the other side of the gallery, David Engbritson’s dark, charred, minimal forms yield a mute, post-apocalyptic silence.

Mudge, who was featured last year in a show at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, reveals a greater integrity in her current work than in her previous, sometimes heavy-handed constructions in wire and plaster. Here, using primarily off-white fiber, music wire and rebar (a sturdy metal used for building), Mudge’s work seems light and organic enough to have created itself.

Quirky, yet elegant, the wall-mounted sculptures in her “Indefinite Quantities” series of 1990-91 seem inspired by structures, textures and patterns found in the natural and perhaps even microscopic world. They refer less to actual forms, however, than to the impulses and rhythms that generate them.

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A cane of rebar, looped over a hook in the wall, serves as the skeletal core of each work in the “Indefinite Quantities” series. From this core emanate delicate hive-like webs of wire and fiber knots (“Whurl”), a sinuous, sensuous pod form (“Shuck”), a spunky umbrella of fiber-wrapped wire (“Bump”) and a spiraling whip of a tail (“Spurl”). Inventive and evocative, these works embody well Mudge’s definition of growth as a process of resisting inertia and pushing against limits, ideas she explores in her exhibition statement.

Aselection of assorted other sculptures and three-dimensional studies by Mudge alternates between the delicate and the grotesque. Fashioned of wire, wax, glass, rubber, metal, wood and pigment, these are strange blips, contorted ladles, graceful cocoons, pouches and protrusions, pins and pores. All hark back to Mudge’s fundamental interest in the variety and dynamism of forms in the natural world.

In contrast to Mudge’s unabashed vitality, Engbritson’s work exudes a somber simplicity. “Collocation” consists of steel, copper, lead and wax forms suspended in a group from the ceiling. Shaped roughly like a wheel, bowl, rod, cone and other forms, these crudely textured objects suggest primitive tools, well-handled and worn. Though largely black, the sculptures often bear a partially visible coat of gold that begins to suggest a timeless, even magical presence.

This transcendent quality surfaces most poetically in several wall-mounted, painted steel sculptures, such as “Fissure.” A chunky, crusty black wedge protruding at a tenuous angle from the wall, “Fissure” bears a slit from top to bottom. Within lies a private passage, a quiet, inviting realm of gold.

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Most of the dozen wall works read as fragments of perhaps once useful forms. Their titles are as blunt as the works themselves: “Box,” “Ground,” “Plane,” “Node.” Just as the artist tinges some works with a provocative gold sheen, however, he charges others with an edge of whimsy. “Column,” for instance, has the split identity of a noble architectural form and a stark, industrial outlet for smoke or steam. “Box” looks suspiciously like a tissue dispenser.

In his artist’s statement, Engbritson, a graduate of San Diego State University’s master of fine arts program, writes that his work is “concerned with questions. Questions about what is of value. Questions of the power of forces that are beyond our control. . . . And questions about beauty.” Indeed, like remnants of a cataclysm, these sculptures remind us of the basic elements of a culture--its tools and symbols.

Though starkly beautiful on occasion, Engbritson’s work feels even more harsh and bleak than it may ultimately be, when juxtaposed with Mudge’s graceful, exuberant optimism. Together, both artists make yet another of Boehm Gallery’s convincing cases for the abundant vitality and talent to be found within San Diego’s artistic community.

Boehm Gallery, Palomar College, 1140 West Mission Roadd, San Marcos, through Oct. 2. Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m.Tuesday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday, noon-4 p.m. Saturday. Both artists will present gallery talks Thursday, from 11 a.m.-noon.

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CRITIC’S CHOICE: A BRIGHT DISPLAY AT GALLERY

Robin Bright’s elegant marriages of line and mass grace the walls of the David Lewinson Gallery in its last show of the summer. Bright’s drawings, whether in steel and mounted directly on the wall, or drawn delicately in pastel, make for quiet meditations on balance and the complementary qualities of solid and void.

Also on view are paintings by Peter Stearns, whose violent sense of whimsy results in such titles as “Abstraction in Bondage: Metamorphosis BBQ,” and photographs by Walter Cotten, wry stabs at photographic veracity and the hollow authority of bureaucratic lingo. The show continues at the Del Mar gallery through Sept. 22.


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