Tony Berlant is the art world's preeminent tin man. For 20 years or so he has distinguished himself by hammering out colorful collages of flattened, cut-out sections of tin cans and boxes. His use of an ordinary material--produced to package commercial products--is in keeping with a Pop sensibility, but the themes he develops include a range of traditional art subjects and personal visions. Forms are equally varied: His metal collages have turned up as wall pieces, functional doors, large cubes, little house-shaped boxes and brooches.
At times, Berlant's perennially appealing work has looked more like design than art; on other occasions it has been overwhelmed by tramp art frames or found paintings. In a current show of recent wall pieces, cubes and houses, that element of arbitrariness is submerged by virtuosity. Berlant moves from figuration to landscape to dreamscape with an easy flow, and his tin work often flowers with a grace that belies the difficulty of working with a recalcitrant, pre-printed medium. That he involves his audience with images and feelings proves that he has risen above technique and material.
"Mirage," a four-panel piece (about 9 feet tall), has a cluster of mechanical forms with spindly legs or dangling rope-like lines rising above a desert. "Dogtown," another large panel, combines such shapes as leaping cats, hands and a dog's bone in an equivocal space of shifting scale and perspective. Other pieces deal with such themes as "Venus," "New York" and "The Geometry of Desire"--always with overlays and lost-and-found connections rather than literal illustrations.