Ed Inks's "Vehicle".

Ed Inks's "Vehicle".

Ed Inks: Sculpture Garden.

At Westmont College. Shows through December 13.

As the head of the Art Department at Santa Barbara City College and a highly respected Santa Barbara artist, Ed Inks is a fine example of the art world’s growing enthusiasm for sculpture. The artist’s newest collection of three-dimensional work, now on show at Westmont’s second annual outdoor sculpture exhibit, claims a place in the re-emergence of sculptural art that has characterized the West Coast art scene recently. Less high-minded than his postmodern predecessors of the 1970s, Inks has applied an aesthetic of playful inquisitiveness to his subject matter-an approach that yields pleasing results.

Ed Inks's "Musical Chairs: At-one-ment."
Click to enlarge photo

Ed Inks’s “Musical Chairs: At-one-ment.”

Inks’s sculptures hover between a modern and postmodern sensibility: They are both earnest in their literal references and inquisitive about the metaphorical capabilities of sculpture. Many of the sculptures in the show incorporate representational elements, but present them in a slightly skewed, lighthearted way. “Wedding at Canaan,” for example, is a giant-sized vessel reminiscent of a Greek perfume pot lying on its side. Uncut grass pokes through the rusted metal bars that make up the sculpture’s skeleton, fusing the natural with the man-made. The juxtaposition of the urn’s graceful curves with the corrugated metal calls attention to the artist’s use of a rigid material to mimic a far more fragile one.

The metaphorical and physical transparency of Inks’s work allows the viewer to consider his sculptures from various perspectives on both levels. In “Untitled,” a tangled spider web of metal bars is intersected by a vertical, flower-like pistil. Viewed from different angles, the organic sculpture changes shape, giving the piece an element of fluidity beyond the limitations of its metallic medium. Similarly, Inks invites the viewer to engage with his work in “Musical Chairs: At-one-ment,” a steel arc created by two chairs with their elongated backs curving and melding together like conjoined twins. It is the move from indoor to outdoor that makes this work so compelling: As sunlight streams through the slats of the chairs and casts shadows onto the grass below, the sculpture incorporates its natural environment as part of its composition. A garden has rarely looked so lovely.

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