4 NOVEMBER 1972, Page 27


Carve up

Evan Anthony

Suddenly: an outbreak of sculpture in the London galleries. Any poor soul who has been brought up to believe that a sculptor is one who paints himself gold and sings 'Underneath the Arches' non-stop (and if you don't know what I'm on about you just haven't been paying attention), owes it to himself to see how the other half once sculpted: the Rodin exhibition at Roland, Browse and Delbanco, Cork Street, is a welcome renaissance of the notion that a torso resembling a torso can be beautiful, or that a head simulating a recognisable human expression can produce empathy without being embarrassingly sentimental.

In describing the work of an acknowledged master, extravagant praise is usually predictable, but the advantage of seeing a smaller collection of the work displayed in a gallery allows an intimacy that can lead to the rewarding rediscovery of why a masterpiece is a masterpiece. The anguish of Le Cri, the repose of Grande Tete orklanako, the anatomical versatility of Danseuse G — with her two legs forming an almost 180 degree angle — are among the pleasures of the show.

When Mr Delbanco was asked why the gallery had changed its policy so that now only three or four one-man shows of work by contemporary artists would be shown each year, one of the reasons he gave was that he was anti-art-pollution. That is a typical Delbanco comment — humorous, flippant, and profound at the same time. He must be well satisfied that the gallery's latest offering will help in stopping the rot.

At the Alwin Gallery, Grafton Street, the human figure is treated with less than the loving care lavished upon it by Rodin. American sculptor Sanford Decker, presents a rather arthritic collection, with connecting joints looking as if they suffer from inflammation of the bone. A major problem with the work is the scale of the figures, which are somewhat small, making them look uncomfortably graceless. A sense of tension is achieved through a clumsy distortion, rather than from perceptive observation.

Elisabeth Frink's distortions are deliberate and better controlled than Decker's, and, for that reason, somewhat more interesting. At the Waddington Galleries, Cork Street, her anthropomorphic figures are a mite too slick altogether to please me, but now and again the contrived crudeness works successfully. Boar is a strong piece, and perhaps the best thing in the show. Too many of the sculptures have a gaudily primitive look about them, giving them a sophisticated air that is alienating. Also on show are her etchings illustrating the Canterbury Tales, which are somewhat overly dependent upon views of the anus and adjoining parts of the anatomy for visual interest.

There is a refreshing absence of Affection in the work of Mary Gorrara at the Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Road, Hampstead. Mrs Gorrara attacks a piece of stone or marble as though dedicated to the task of freeing the figures and shapes fossilised within. The ingenuity of her interlocking forms is both subtle and surprising. It is more than a game of hide and seek being played, and in Curbstone Couple and Embrace she has sculpted relationships that intrigue and delight. The smaller bronzes are charmingly designed, and Tumblers is particularly appealing.

Some other gems not to be missed, are on view at Burlington Gardens in The Museum of Mankind where Eskimo sculpture is being shown. It's a remarkable exhibition With both historical and modern pieces worthy of your attention. I don't know how well the contemporary Eskimo sculptor does commercially, but the work is well above the trinket class, making superb use of gorgeously coloured stones and walrus ivory.