William Lombardo calls his show of statues, now at Diane Brown's,2028 P St. NW, "Historical Self-Portraits." He makes grandiose, amusing, terra-cotta monuments to his moustached self.
Lombardo dreams of glory. He sees himself as Honest Abe, musing on the Mall; as Liberty, her torch aloft; as King Kong wreaking havoc: and as Esther Williams rising from the waves. Then he turns to the medium of clay and makes his dreams come almost true. If Lombardo's sculptures, like the homicidal statue in Mozart's "Don Giovanni," could somehow come alive, the gallery would seem an American Olympus - a little on the noisy side, what with all the splashing, the booming of the cannon, the braying of the mules and the roaring of King Kong - yet pleasingly familial. All those busy demigods, above their cowboy vests and bathing suits, their flowing robes and hairy chests, wear Bill Lombardo's face.
Though Lombardo teaches ceramics at the Corcoran, he is not your average potter. Potters, for the most part, fall into two groups: the subtle students of the Orient, and the others - who rejecting such refinements, prefer the rougher kicks of California funk.
In Lombardo's mock-heroic art the neoclassical tradition gives a last, light-hearted twitch.
He has looked with much affection at the statues in our parks. Holywood has moved him - Lombardo-Kong swats biplanes from the top of the Empire State Building. Lombardo-Esther Williams poses on a half-shell while half a dozen of her niads dive, with nice precision, into a clay pool - but he is just as taken by the western statuettes whose miniature bronze cowboys gallop through the atrium of the Corcoran Gallery.
Frederick Remington and Charles Russell liked to show us mules, horses, harnesses and reins and so does Lombardo. A 20-mule team pulls a borax wagon while Lombardo cracks the whip. A family of pioneers rides westward through the gallery; Ma, Pa, Junior and the baby all wear Bill Lombardo's handlebar moustache.
Though a number of these terra-cottas have been shown before, the series is now finished, and this is the first time they are on view together. The exhibition closes Feb. 11.