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May 13, 1988|MARLENA DONOHUE

Local abstract sculptor Jay Willis shows a dozen or so maquettes and one full-scale metal work. An heir to David Smith's unpredictable gravity centers and Anthony Caro's jumbled geometry, Willis made his mark with entertaining primary and pastel painted sculptures that tip and balance, pun and play. Maybe it's the all-black coloration, but these works are more somber and eloquent.

"Star" masses flat rectangles in random skyward bundles that seem to crowd upward against gravity, like Tatlin's tower. Airy but firmly grounded on a wide lateral base, "Know Not Why" cuts space with cavernous jogs that invite us to follow. We get a nice peek at the creative leap from nascent idea to full conception in the small- and large-scale versions of "Double Black," the latter taking up the whole front gallery. With its subtle refinements and adjustments, the large scale piece lets long rods pierce an open rectangle that looks suspiciously like a picture frame. If we hadn't decided this was Willis' serious side, we might think he was toying with the revered notion of pictorial space. (Cirrus, 542 Alameda St., to June 4.)

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