New Sculpture Survey

Michael O'Malley's latest sculptures were inspired by a bout of IKEA-induced frustration. After struggling to construct a cheaply-made bookshelf, O'Malley created the organic-looking chandelier that now sprawls from the ceiling of Howard House gallery like a strange vine, sprouting sculpted pieces of blue foam, pale wood, and red bricks. His Tatlin's Dream (pictured) clings to one corner of the room like a mysterious deep-sea creature, reclaiming the geometry of the space in a nicely odd manner. As intended, neither piece fits any kind of mold of mass-produced predictability. The "New Sculpture Survey" at Howard House presents an intriguing array of approaches to sculpture and expression. In Storytelling, Diem Chau finely whittles a childhood talisman, colorful Crayola crayons, into tiny figures of demure children and pets. Jason Wood has re-created himself entirely out of pencils: erasers lined up to form underwear, the leads across his body giving him a rather hirsute topography. In another self-portrait, he uses Pick-Up Stix to create his torso, his limbs and head spilling into piles of loose sticks. Asked whether he is falling apart or coming back together, Wood replies, "A little bit of both." Sean Johnson's constructions toy with gravity and personal identity issues in compelling ways; as gallery owner Billy Howard explains their significance, it becomes clear that some objects are most eloquent in their muteness. In one sculpture (Scaling a Facade), a ladder stands by itself, thanks to counterweights on both sides. The piece of blond wood on one side represents the biracial artist's white mother, the tar roofing shingles on the other, his black father. In this instance, the work doesn't really need any further explanation: We can understand, at a gut level, this careful balance, and all the gravitational and personal tensions that have created it. 604 Second Ave., 206-256-6399, www.howardhouse.net. 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat. Ends Aug. 26.

 
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