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ART | SIGHTS

Sculptor's Gyrating, Geometric Creations Equal Wonder Plus Beauty, Squared

May 29, 1997|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Run, don't walk, to catch the illuminating exhibition of kinetic sculptures by George Rickey, on exhibit through Sunday at Carl Schlosberg's home/gallery in Sherman Oaks. This is one of the city's must-see art shows, which happens to take place in the Valley.

Rickey, who lives in upstate New York and turns 90 on June 6, is still producing artworks of varying scale, creating a body of work that deserves wider recognition. Using mostly stainless steel sheet metal, Rickey fashions carefully balanced forms--cubes, blades, triangles, squares--and hinges them to steel pillars to create kinetic sculptures.

Descriptions are deceptive when it comes to Rickey's work. What might seem somehow industrial or generally cool to the senses--an impression seconded by his mathematical, matter-of-fact titles--actually exudes a wonderfully eccentric charm.

He has made pieces of epic scale, including one that was in front of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art for years and is now at the Ridley-Tree Educational Center in Santa Barbara. There, huge cubes gyrate in a way that seems to defy gravity in a multitude of ways.

Schlosberg has been collecting Rickey's work for some 25 years. The current exhibition, which extends from the lawns and throughout the house to an upstairs gallery, covers a 32-year span.

To get to the gallery, head toward the hills above Ventura Boulevard, into a comfortably posh residential district. You know you've arrived at the right place when you see the frontyard with the slowly slicing, gleaming silver blades of Rickey's 1965 piece "Two Lines Vertical," which suggests cosmic windshield wipers in action.

To get to the heart of the Rickey aesthetic, head for the backyard. Here, a dozen large pieces--all set into gentle motion by the slightest gust of wind--transform the yard into an eye-opening sculpture garden. A rational title such as "Four Cubes Excentric Unfolding" hardly conveys the hypnotic sway of its metallic parts.

Smaller pieces in the upstairs gallery veer closer to the mobile aesthetic of Alexander Calder, set into desired motion when the French doors are open to let in the breeze. "Squeezing Squares," a wall relief piece, moves in a way neatly described by its title. Down in the living room, vivid swipes of color decorate the small tabletop piece "Two Open Squares Times Two," created this year.

Whatever contemporary sculptural issues Rickey deals with--the illusionistic use of materials, questions of balance, the interaction of culture and nature--his work is also about simple wonder and beauty. This stuff dazzles, quietly, its choreography aided by the breath of nature.

* "George Rickey: Master of Kinetic Sculpture" at Carl Schlosberg Fine Arts, 15447 Valley Vista Blvd., Sherman Oaks. Sun., noon-5 p.m., or by appointment. (818) 783-6209.

*

Definitions of Heat: The current two-person show at the Orlando Gallery, titled "Emotional Heat," demonstrates the subjectivity of artistic approaches, and compatibility within diversity.

In Lori Markman's monotypes, the female form is the point of expressive departure. The females are faceless--some used as compositional ploys more than subjects, others archetypal visual forms familiar to anyone plugged into the culture of body worship.

We get clues about the content through the titles. "The Baseball Game" plays off the tension between the upfront female figure and the small baseball diamond faintly visible in the background. "Woman Having a Nervous Breakdown" portrays a sense of dislocation through the fragmented, contorted figuration. The "Woman Who Refuses to Listen to Reason" appears swollen, with granite skin tones.

With this work, Markman walks a fine line between figurative art and expressive abstraction, while finding an emotional pulse through it all. It's art about art, and art about being on the verge.

Charleene Rubin Johnson follows a much looser strategy in her work, generating abstract paintings that vaguely hint at real-world connections. We can detect the basic forms of figures, biological entities or bits of landscape within the soft-edged, amorphous shapes set against white backdrops.

"Love Without Limit" shows uncharacteristically vigorous brushwork and visual agitation--some possibly cataclysmic event underway. Or is that just the consuming, confusing force of love?

* "Emotional Heat," art by Lori Markman and Charleene Rubin Johnson, through Friday at the Orlando Gallery, 14553 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. Gallery hours: Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; (818) 789-6012.

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