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The Galleries

La Cienega Area

June 17, 1988|WILLIAM WILSON

By now John Chamberlain's sculpture of crumpled auto body parts are familiar contemporary classics from which we expect few surprises. There are no great departures in about 15 10-foot behemoths currently on view, just a lot of staying power and interesting variations. Most arresting are works bolted to the wall so they function as reliefs. Unburdened of the necessity to stand up, they take on the character of exotic mechanical birds mutated from the junkyard and about to soar like industrial-age pterodactyls.

There are mild annoyances like the introduction of jazzy graffiti-like paint that seems to be trying to keep up with the kids and update the product like a fashion designer. There are generic problems like Chamberlain's tendency to garble his masses. He always gets the gesture right and then mumbles in the middle.

All that is greatly compensated by the memory of the artist's initial originality. He has matured from a social-commentary junk-basher to a master capable of evoking a remarkable range of associations. The frig-white "Red Beatts" alludes to Hellenistic Greece and the erosion of ancient Egyptian monuments. "Los ang us" encapsulates local immaturity and energy, looking like some creative folly made by a naughty Paul Bunyan baby who for the the sheer sport of it crushes upscale autos with his bare hands. (Margo Leavin Gallery, 812 N. Robertson Blvd., to Aug. 6.)

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