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Art Reviews : Reopening a Minimalist Door : Carl Andre's 1976 "Uncarved Blocks," part of a Newport Harbor collection show, offers richer meaning with the passage of time.

May 23, 1995|CATHY CURTIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

No doubt Andre would firmly deny that the piece invokes the larger journey that shapes the "uncarved block" of a human life. But the work sneakily gives us leeway to prop the door open, and it's tempting to invite ourselves inside.

* "Permanent Collection: Object and Image," through June 18 at the Newport Harbor Art Museum, 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. $4 adults, $2 students and seniors, free for children under 12 and for everyone on Tuesdays. (714) 759-1122. *

STUCK IN THE LIFE CYCLE: Most of Hoang Vu's wire-mesh sculptures are elongated containers for various kinds of vaguely disreputable flotsam: cans of imported juice, a sack of yellow fluid, a slithery spill of red plastic tubing. These works--gathered under the title "Trapped Traps," at Cal State Fullerton's West Gallery through May 26--invoke digestive processes and industrial waste in graceful, formally appealing ways. Therein lie both their strength and their weakness.

Vu, a CSUF master of fine arts candidate, remarks in a statement that he intends this work as a metaphor for the life cycle and, more particularly, the "tremendous struggle for survival," a theme understandably vivid and crucial to the Vietnam-born artist. But well-groomed attractiveness--a few of these pieces consist entirely of wire mesh shaped into a spiral, an open pod or concentric basket-like forms--can be a trap in itself.

The solution might lie in deliberately loosening the formal resolution of these works to evoke a greater sense of struggle or, conversely, in developing the small-scale eccentricity of "Fruit Catcher" or "Leaf Holder," and moving away from the constraints, no matter how heartfelt, of a specific humanist agenda.

* "Trapped Traps," works by Hoang Vu, through Friday at the West Gallery, Cal State Fullerton, 800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton. Hours: noon to 5 p.m. Free (parking is $1.50 in Lot D). (714) 773-3471.

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