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THE ART GALLERIES

Santa Monica

January 09, 1987|WILLIAM WILSON

After plugging away for a quarter-century and more, Michael Todd has attained a solid niche in the pantheon of abstract sculptors. His open-ring metal structures are by now familiar--even conservative--symbols of a blend of modern method and occult philosophy.

Recently, however, it has all waxed a trifle stale in its dignified consistency. Todd needed moves and in the present exhibition he has made some nice ones without dying his hair chartreuse. Big works like "Buddha Gate" and "Chinese Rings" have more in common with Peking acrobats than Oriental sages. Their interlocked rings rise overhead as if levitated by a snake-charmer's flute.

Versions of his more familiar "Tantric Circle" motif appear altered in both substance and sensation. New combinations of bronze, brass and patination flirt with the decorative but escape its dead laquered finger by authentic sculptural achievement. What Todd has really done here is make metal appear to float. Somehow his circle-works take on the quality of undersea life captured in exotic aquariums. Coral wafts up while the debris of sunken ships drifts down.

There are muffled omens of excess in the work. Take this much further and you fall into the campy literalism of Post-Modernism. The point is that Todd didn't. He took a necessary risk that infused his art with new spirit, trading parched philosophical gravity for lively sparks of rococo wit. (Tortue Gallery, 2917 Santa Monica Blvd., to Jan. 31.)

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