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ART | SIGHTS

Sleek, Wooden Forms Exude a Tactile Beauty

January 22, 1998|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Despite what your mother and stern art keepers say, some art, like that of Arron Latt, just begs to be touched. Latt's smooth, sensuous wooden sculptures are now in the Orlando Gallery in Sherman Oaks, where, we're happy to report, touching is not only allowed but encouraged.

The pieces in his show, "Kinetics in Wood," are organic beauties to behold, but they are best considered by engaging the moving parts. Sleek wooden forms, curvy and asymmetrical, move and effectively change the structure of the works, as in "Man and Woman," with two wavy vertical forms whose proximity can be altered by turning them. In effect, we make them dance or nuzzle.

Latt works as an architect, and you can sense in these pieces an architect's love of making interacting parts get along and contribute to a larger whole. He also plays with the design variables of sculpture as compared to static sculpture. "Floating" involves an irregularly shaped wooden piece, which swivels on top of a smaller triangular base, defying gravity.

The balance of positive and negative space comes into play with the clever "Rabbit and the Cactus," with parts that literally change shape and image as the pieces are manipulated. It reminds us of nothing so much as transformer toys, in an art context.

Latt seems to be making a sly reference to his own kinetic obsession with his "Organic Series." Here, the main attraction is a vertical wooden piece, half finished, revealing its essential nature and commenting on the process by which a natural resource becomes lumber. That piece pivots atop a marble base, which then also pivots on its own axis on the pedestal.

Pleasant to behold and free to fondle, Latt's unpretentious sculptures bank on the simple pleasures of seeing, with eyes and hands.

*

Nature-Loving Abstractionist: Even without our being told so, Soni Wright's abstractions, also at the Orlando this month, reflect the impact and influence of nature, on many levels. Some abstract art aspires to an unspecified realm or to an imaginary landscape; Wright's work seems wrested out of soil, sky, water and natural processes, but without ever dealing directly with those elements.

Earth tones, hints of topography, and the tangible bumpiness of relief maps incorporated in her work are discernible enough clues. But Wright also likes to suggest the process of change, decay found in nature, with visuals that evoke oxidation or some primordial ooze.

The paint on the edges of "Green and Gold Spring" has swollen and is seemingly caught in a state of metamorphosis, as if subjected to extreme heat or some chemical voodoo.

Other assemblage elements are at times added, as in "Chinese Summer," with its broken sticks and lengths of rope affixed to the surface. The surface itself is warped and layered, looking like a pool of goopy sludge of either a primal or postindustrial origin--the viewer's choice.

Of the works here, "Lucerne II" comes closest to being a landscape in a conventional sense. The pieces are in place--in proper vertical order: a blue (albeit a surreal blue) sky, mountainous contours and a stretch of ground before us. But the colors and formal scheme of the painting are just skewed enough that it settles into the comfortable realm of ambiguity.

In looking at Wright's show, one has a sense of observing nature through the prism of the artist's interpretive powers. That's the same aesthetic code used in appreciating traditional landscape art, but in this case, the artist's inventive side takes the upper hand.

BE THERE

Exhibits--Arron Latt, "Kinetics in Wood," and Soni Wright, "Natural Inspirations," through Jan. 30 at Orlando Gallery, 14553 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday; (818) 789-6012.

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