Review: Kathy Butterly’s compact sculptures pack a big punch


Kathy Butterly does for sculpture what digital technology does for information: pack so much into such small spaces that it’s impossible to reconcile an object’s literal dimensions with the kicks it delivers.

Size matters, but not like it used to. Think of what Butterly does as the microscopic sublime. Intimately and gently, she blows your mind, time after time, and never the same way.

At Shoshana Wayne Gallery, “Lots of Little Love Affairs” consists of 15 tabletop sculptures the New York artist has made over the last 18 months. Each is more gorgeous — and fascinating — than the last.


Some, like “Mirror Mirror,” “Ckhaatrhlyie” and “Jelly Maker” have the presence of 3-D cartoon characters: plump cups that you dare not drink from because they link, in the mind’s eye, innocent little sips with hot, open-mouth kisses.

Others, like “Saturday Night” and “New Pink,” resemble mutant tureens, their mix-and-match palettes, textures and parts forming an oddball mélange that short-circuits a pot’s ordinary usefulness by turning it into an end in itself.

Butterly’s peers in such purposeful dysfunctionalism are Ron Nagle and Ken Price, whose magnificent retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and dazzling solo show at Frank Lloyd Gallery (through Nov. 10) laid the groundwork for Butterly’s compact cornucopias of sensual delight.

Butterly builds on the genius of Price and Nagle by treating the interiors of her sexy vessels no differently than their exteriors — as worlds within worlds whose every nook and cranny is chockablock with adventure, danger and romance. Think of “Overboard,” “Line Dance” and “Forever 21” as diptychs that have melted into lumps that then have been turned inside out, their fleshy folds forming multi-dimensional mobius strips.

Butterly also doubles up on the handles that adorn her works, transforming this utilitarian element into a double feature that is neither symmetrical nor sensible but goofy and off-center. Like mismatched earrings, each of the handles in “Cool Spot” and “Stretch” seem to have minds of their own and, more important, to be unafraid to use them. All of Butterly’s sculptures expect no less from us.

Shoshana Wayne Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, (310) 453-7535, through Dec. 21. Closed Sundays and Mondays.