In a small, crisp showing of four sculptures and three Minimalist drawings New Yorker Joel Shapiro continues the practice that has made him a leading light. He builds objects out of rectilinear lumber or bronze channel. They stand exactly on the frontier between Minimalist abstraction and Neo-Expressionist figures--purposely dumb and humorously agonized.
We read them at once as abstract arrangements articulating a remarkable amount of surrounding empty space and as expressive gestures. One looks like a man trying to catch himself as he slips on ice, another has the unraveled dignity of a drum major who tripped. Two are quieter than usual--a nude bending head to knee and a torso whose head turns coyly like that of Brancusi's "Mlle. Pogany."
This is manifestly smart stuff and an excellent object lesson in how art works to effect us emotionally through formal manipulation. All the same, there still lurks something here that bothers. Its whiz-bang positioning between old and new movements is too hip for comfort. Its muffled sentimental intimism is so cute it puts off seriousness. (Asher/Faure Gallery, 612 N. Almont Drive, to Dec. 20.)