Gwynn Murrill has outdone herself. The only trouble is that her latest sculptures of coyotes, a bobcat, a hawk and, yes, a snake are such purely refined expressions of animal form that they threaten to make her much-admired earlier work seem clunky and rough.
Murrill throws herself open to criticism by tilling the same plot year after year, but she also proves that dedication can come up smelling like an exotic rose, and she can't be accused of having a persnickety aversion to weeds. She has experimented quite adventurously over the years, combining her animal sculpture with both paintings and furniture; she also has tried materials from clay to cast and painted bronze. But in her current exhibition, she glides back to the center of her garden with such assurance that you know she's home.
Works from her "Coyote Series," including one life-size beast in smooth, golden bronze and four in laminated Hawaiian koa, are the heart of the show. Instead of the scroungy, howling menaces that have acquired increasingly bad press as they crowd closer to urban areas, attacking children and gobbling up pets, Murrill turns coyotes into silently graceful beauties. She gives us no details, but she gets the flow of their muscular bodies right and makes their coats shimmer seductively with the warm play of light on variegated wood.
Other works--all in wood--are equally strong in their evocation of disembodied form. The stocky bobcat prowls; the compact hawk keeps watch from a high, laminated limb protruding from one wall, and the tapered snake slithers into a backward S-shape. All of them look so effortlessly made that they seem to float. (Asher/Faure, 612 N. Almont Drive, to May 18.)