The Eleventh International Sculpture Conference has come and gone but local galleries still are offering a variety of sculpture exhibitions.
"Sculpture in Many Media" at Plum Gallery (3762 Howard Ave., Kensington) echoes one of the conference's dominant themes: that sculptors today -- far from being confined to traditional materials and methods such as direct carving in stone and wood, modeling in clay and casting in bronze -- are exploring a wide variety of media, materials and techniques. They range from laser beams and live, painted sheep to piles of earth, gas-filled bags and streams of water to methods of assemblage and construction.
The Kensington show is less extravagant than what was seen in Washington last week. The use of plexiglass, paper, welded steel and glass seems almost conservative by comparison. Nevertheless, the diversity in approach, the almost unanimous concern for light, space and movement over the volume and mass of older paradigmatic sculpture and the virtuosity of those who have created three-dimensional forms are certainly worth noting.
Headlining the show and sharing the spotlight are senior artists William Calfree of Chevy Chase, (who was awarded the commission for a sculpture to be unveiled in October in front of Rockville's Civic Center,) Baltimore-born paper sculptor Hilda Thorpe and fiber artist Sirpa Yarmolinsky of Garrett Park.
The flat cut-out planes of Calfee's intriguing "Alchemical Instrument" intersect each other, enclosing and shaping space rather than filling or displacing it. The parts are cast in traditional bronze -- "I prefer it because it endures," says Calfee -- but are unified according to constructivist principles.
Hilda Thorpe's material is handmade by pressing cotton pulp into cotton netting and then solidifying it. "It's as durable as canvas," says the artist. She calls her paper sculpture, entitled "Spill," a "drawing in space." As in drawing, the approach is spontaneous and intuitive. The flat, curved surfaces are detached from mass, undulate and flow to and from the wall on which they are mounted and cascade downwards simulating the force of gravity.
While Thorpe uses the netting as an armature, Yarmolinsky structures her blue-tipped paper cords with copper wire that allows air to fill the spaces that are created. Called "Ilmatar" -- Finnish for "spirit of air" -- the unique wall sculpture thrusts vertically with an insistent rhythm, seeming to burst and flare at the top.
Like Thorpe's "Spill," Nancy Frankel's wood and transparent plexiglass "Tilt" has an analogue in the world of physics. Refined craftsmanship demonstrates the interaction of geometric solids and voids and the ambiguity of the visual effects of their relationships. Competent handling of materials is also evident in the welded geometric steel shapes of Hildegarde Van Roijen's "Baffle III."
In the company of the veteran artists, some young artists are showing exciting and experimental works. For example, Kensington ceramist Barbara Mones (who exhibited at the prestigious Everson Museum of Ceramics in Syracuse, N. Y. last year) and Michael Lucero get full marks for originality of conception in the use of clay for nonfunctional purposes. Mones giant plant form evokes a threatening surreal world where the process of growth seems to be out of control. Lucero's effigy figure -- made of terra cotta shards from which myriad telephone wires emerge to give a quivering effect -- resembles the ritual paraphernalia used in primitive cultures.
"Sculpture in Many Media" will remain at the Plum Gallery until July 31.