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THE ART GALLERIES

Santa Monica

April 26, 1985|SUZANNE MUCHNIC

Woods Davy has arrived at a troublesome plateau. Now that he has developed a body of handsome steel and stone sculpture that looks terrific on park-like lawns, does he go with the hard-won flow and start turning out trademark art? Or does he dare to shake up his audience, his work and the threat of formula that has begun to set in? Stay tuned, for a few years.

Changes don't happen quickly among people who work in large-scale sculpture. The physical restraints are too daunting. Besides, Davy has just barely established himself after several years in Los Angeles. We catch up with him in a very cohesive, mature-looking group of sculpture, including eight maquettes, a glass-topped table and 10 large pieces measuring up to about 5 by 9 by 4 1/2 feet. All are composed of long, steel beams and rounded stones that appear to be doing amazing balancing acts.

The most obvious influence on Davy's work seems to be Japanese. Despite its Modernist angularity, the sculpture's emphasis on linear clarity, open space and precarious balance puts one in mind of things Oriental. Rocks clustered at joints or standing upright on the ends of beams appear to have been lifted from a perfectly tended Japanese hideaway.

At heart, though, this is American-style modern art that addresses itself to familiar formal principles and the tension between man-made and natural form. At this point, the sculpture has solved its problems so deftly that it is about to turn into good design. (Tortue Gallery, 2917 Santa Monica Blvd., to May 18.)

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