Although the physical dimensions of the room remain the same, under the direction of Brad Nack, and with Nancy Gifford co-curating, the imaginative space manifested by the Arts Fund Gallery continues to grow. With this new Sculpture Survey, which is on view through April 25, the team of Nack and Gifford takes the measure of several generations of Santa Barbara sculptors, and the result is both fresh and inspirational. These aren’t just eight good sculptors; these are eight strong artists in the broadest sense, meaning creators capable of transcending categories and defying expectations while simultaneously delivering intense aesthetic pleasure. From Claire Frandsen’s “Pocket-Sized Conan” [O’Brien] to Ed Inks’s imposing and bulbous welded wire piece “by all odds,” there’s a continuous sense that, by embracing three dimensions, these artists also break free of many of the constraints of artistic convention.
Three small objects rendered in bronze, silver, and copper represent Frandsen’s work. There’s the aforementioned pocket Coco, instantly recognizable even in this semi-abstract striding figure portrait. Then there’s “The Rhino’s Guard,” a scary/blingy riff on brass knuckles, and finally “Wild Game,” a mini-menagerie. Frandsen has a neat sense of scale and an original, offbeat tone that elevates these tabletop oddities even as they slip over and around the ordinary expectations for subject matter in bronze.
In Westmont faculty member Nathan Huff’s work, tall, skinny metal plinths sometimes emphasize the vertical aspirations of his highly personal constructions. For example, his “Self-portrait at 34” shoots up to chest height before coming together in a delicately balanced tangle of miniature balsawood chairs and a hammer. The hammer-and-chairs motif returns on the horizontal in “Wisdom Council on Work,” and the soaring stand comes back into play in his third object, the timely “Drought & Blob,” which imagines stretched animal figures as the captives of a familiar water faucet.