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THE ART GALLERIES

Wilshire Center

June 13, 1986|COLIN GARDNER

Herb Elsky's cast resin sculptures are usually noted for their combination of abstract formal vocabulary and spiritual iconography, alluding particularly to the Buddhist tenets of "birth, death and manifestation." His latest exhibit, generically titled "Earth Gestures," expresses more overtly archeological concerns, evoking the magic and totemic properties of rocks as well as the process of earthly evolution.

Elsky creates his works by pouring liquid resin into sand molds, creating a wide variety of textures and color hues that are then reworked through chiseling, sanding and polishing. The resulting combination of translucent veins and rugged striations produces an interesting surface hybrid, vacillating in appearance between marble, glass and stone.

The new wall and free-standing pieces are much looser and more spontaneously executed than in the past. Elsky's somewhat mannered juxtapositions of geometric and organic properties have evolved into more fluid agglomerations that one might describe as "frozen flux." The work is still about space, volume, the contradictions between liquidity and solidity and the push-pull of absorbed and reflected light.

Unfortunately, it also retains most of its usual weaknesses--a fetishistic quality that stresses finish and decorative accessibility over challenging formal parameters and conceptual edge. Elsky thus reduces a potentially vigorous archeology to empty design and transforms the slippery amorphousness of his materials into the pristine elegance of passive, and ultimately very bourgeois, objets d'art. (Jan Baum Gallery, 170 S. La Brea Ave., to July 3.).

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