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Art

Little Giants

Group show focuses on the smaller works of big names

Chul-Hyun Ahn's "Well 4."

By Alex Ebstein | Posted 6/24/2009

A Sculpture Show

Through June 27 at C. Grimaldis Gallery

A Sculpture Show, C. Grimaldis Gallery's 2009 manifestation of its annual summer sculpture group show, features the small works of big names. For an exhibition whose bill includes Richard Serra, a gargantuan sculptor both in product and celebrity, the work is diminutive, and at times delicate. Some of the pieces in this exhibition look like maquettes for larger pieces, while others are explorations of form and material. Show's eight sculptors, having achieved some recognition for their larger pieces--some of which were seen in last June's Grimaldis @ Area 405--present a domestic-friendly set of works, as well as two dimensional drawings and sketches, which compromise little with the exception of scale.

Placed front and center in the gallery's window pedestal, John Van Alstine's "Sisyphean Circle (Beijing XVII)" is probably most pleasing piece to imagine as a larger work. A graceful, flat metal ring stands upright from a curved red base. From the inside edge of the ring, a red pigmented steel joint suspends a sharp stone into the circle's center. The composition suggests a constant, impending motion--a guillotine movement of the stone or spinning of the wheel-like ring--while remaining frozen in its potential energy. Begging to be surrounded by action figures at this size, a two-story version of the structure would be awesome and terrifying. Unfortunately, Van Alstine's two other, smaller works--also metal circle/stone pieces--are comparatively static. Crafted from chunkier pieces of metal and welded haphazardly, the illusion of balance is lost.

Annette Sauermann provides a visual bridge between the two- and three-dimensional works with her two wall-bound sculptures and a series of three collages. In the past, Sauermann's worked with light, creating large, elaborate architectural installations to emphasize luminescence or to trap the glow of a light source. In a shift toward the two-dimensional, Sauermann's newer work consists of thick, flat concrete slabs fitted with translucent pieces of plexiglass and light filters. While drastically reserved, she continues to address light and architecture, minimally and materially. As if working backward from the room to the wall, it's a short reach from her concrete sculptures to her collage series. Compressing and flattening space and light, her collages on board are also crafted from cement, light filters, and sandpaper.

While most artists include colorfully and materially consistent pieces--and in the case of Van Alstine, repetitive forms--John Ruppert includes both the most hulking, masculine structure, and alternately the most delicate, petite piece. The vertical, cast-iron shaft "Split Column" is unfeasibly balanced on its narrow point in a circle of black sand. Resembling a splintered tree trunk, Ruppert's organic form is simultaneously precarious and imposing. Ruppert's smaller, white plaster "Phobos #2 (Celestial Bodies Series)" is contrastingly fragile but more comfortably grounded. At just 10 inches high, "Phobos" consists of two slightly imploded blobs; the bottom solid, and the top form a lacey lattice.

Chul-Hyun Ahn, whose infinite light/mirror tunnels took a dramatic turn toward diorama at the end of last year, includes two minimal pieces: "Horizon," which is wall mounted, and the free-standing "Well 4." While most works in the exhibition are of souvenir status and would look comfortable in a home, Ahn's pieces veer toward the functional. "Horizon," a glass pane in front of a neon-bordered mirror, casts off enough light to serve as a cool, contemporary lamp, while it wouldn't be much of a stretch to see the round, glass-topped "Well 4" as a coffee table--neither of which is meant to be a slight. Ahn's smaller works remain distinctly recognizable and adaptable to every potential setting, blurring the line between art and design.

The pieces in A Sculpture Show offer a similar impression to viewing the blueprints and architectural models of a building you've already visited. In many cases, the work and planning that goes into the model is more intimate and exciting than the resultant building, which is often taken for granted. These works allow a view into the development, process, and range that each artist has accomplished; a chance to reconsider familiar pieces and the planning involved.

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