Dorothy Dehner has turned boards and planks and other wooden objects into sculptured constructions that more than equal the sum of their parts. Though hard-edged and stationary, the organic shapes and images almost quiver with movement. Along with a few of her recent drawings, the artist's latest wood works are now on view in a solo show at the Barbara Fiedler Gallery.
Dehner, a recent convert to wood, is well known for her work in bronze. (Art critic Hilton Kramer has described her metal constructions as "handsome and impeccable.") Her first attemps with wood were small, flat collages.
"About five years ago, I just came across some wood," she says, explaining the transition. She liked the colors and the textures and then settled down to work. She buys very few materials, collecting scraps and junk where ever she can find it. b"I might have to break up my furniture some day," she jokes.
Dehner's long-time marriage to sculptor David Smith ended in divorce in 1952. Many years passed, she says, before she could play the piano, a pastime the two had enjoyed together. "Upright Keyboard No. 1" and "Upright Keyboard No. 3," two of the works in the Fiedler show, are tributes -- perhaps -- to her late ex-husband. At once bold and fragile in design, the ersatz instruments are eloquent in their silence.
A look through Dehner's "Window With a View" reveals landscapes and cityscapes that convey with uncommon simplicity the complex world she sees. "Wind Harp No. 2," still and steady in reality, can almost be heard as it sways in imaginary breezes.
None of the works is painted, though some have been waxed to highlight the grains and textures. Dehner uses a variety of woods, including maple, mahogany, walnut, oak and a number of unidentified species. The pen-and-ink drawings also in the show are not studies for Dehner's sculptures, yet strongly evoke her three-dimensional insight.
The exhibit continues through February at 1621 21st Street NW. The gallery is closed Sundays and Mondays. 797-7131.