Reuben Kadish’s energetic and feisty figurative sculpture tries to make an impact through interpretations that involve the inventive manipulation of both surface and form. Knobs, pits and the suggestion of a crackling, pliable material make his bronze and terra-cotta surfaces look alive, while forms are influenced, in part, by the desire to explore a universal mythology.
The sizable exhibition of Mr. Kadish’s work now in the Art Gallery of the State University at Stony Brook. gives an adequate overview of his interests since the 50’s when be turned from painting to sculpture.
It was as a painter In the 30’s that Mt Radish first gained a national reputation. Highlights from those years include a stint as assistant to the Mexican muralist Siqueiros and a feature in a mass-circulation magazine citing Mr. Kadish and Philip Gustaf as “the two most promising painters in either the United States or Mexico” At the time both young artists were executing a mural together at a Mexican university.
One of the largest figures in the present exhibition ”Aztecas,” was obviously influenced by what Mr. Kadish saw in Mexico.
This 1980 bronze is also a piece that nicely sums up characteristics that run throughout the show. Eyes, for example. are bold, swelling protrusions that seem to indicate special powers, and prominent breasts are symbols of fertility. Like most of Mr. Kadish’s works, “Azteca” has a vigorously worked surface.
References to other cultures also recur frequently as part of an attempt to give figures an aura of universality. Often, the link between antiquities and Mr. Kadish’s experience is direct. For example, he was on Army assignments in India, Burma and other Asian zones In the mid-40’s.
Other ancient materials sensed as important here include those from classical Greece. A declining “Medusa,” with serpent wrapped around the limbs and waist, one of the most successful terra cotta sculptures on view. Its individual components seem to fracture the body, yet each unit is developed with a different kind of internal energy, setting up a powerful interplay.
The inspiration from diverse time periods and locales are intended to underscore what Mr. Kadish sees as the commonality of human experience. “Pregnant Aphrodite With Turtle” is one of his most successful uses of the procreation theme. Aphrodite’s body contain have the characteristics of an undulating landscape, and the turtle acts as a metaphor for the life cycles of all living creatures.
Many of the heavy-breasted figures clearly relate the legendary concept of a fertility goddess. A bronze “Earth Mother,” is notable for the way it demonstrates the kind of freedom to create a rhythmic organization of body parts that seems linked to similar qualities in African art.
Although the relief might seem to be continuations of a rigid, ritualizing, format, a number of examples suggest experiments with closed and open architectural space. In “Byzantium,” the figure twists rather freely. creating a nice dynamic, and in “Isis” limbs project beyond the framework. extending the body’s actionover the adjacent wall.
“Eleusis,” about six feet high and the largest of the reliefs, calls attention to the rugged character of its surface has the lock of being recently excavated from muddy earth. and this adds to the sense of association. bat with antiquity.
Mr. Kadish’s handiwork, rough modeling makes its strongest impact in his large expressive heads. At times, there is a reminder of Giacometti’s existential figures, with their flesh sensed as being constantly in flux.
Other Ones, smaller and some excuted quite recently, are smoother and emphasize a long dedication to exploring the potential for swelling curving forms in both animals and humans some of the larger sculptures seems dated, it is perhaps more of a reflection on how the field has expanded in subject matter, materials and methods than a comment on Mr. Kadish’s achievement.
There could be little question, however, about the freshness and gripping power of the artist’s work on paper, and the fine representation here is a principal highlight.
Mr. Kadish’s more historical roots in this area are impressive, too, for in an earlier stage of his career he worked with William Hayter’s printmaking workshop Atelier 17 where be printed Miro’s and Pollock’s etching; as well as his own.
In those years, he spent a considerable amount of time in East Hampton with Pollock, a close friend. Mr. Kadish’s current studio and press are In Manhattan.
Some of the prominent monotypes here are quite recent, and many are self-portraits. Their gestural, oxidated characteristics recall qualifies of the sculptural surfaces.
Other prints and drawings treat themes of life, death and allegorical visions with the smashing directness of boldly outlined eye, hand, serpent, anthropomorphic and amoeba-like shapes. The exhibition, which remains on view through Aug 1st, was organized by Mel Pekarsky, professor of art on the State University faculty. The university Art Gallery.’ which is in the Staller Center for the Arts, is open from neon to 4 P.M.. Tuesday through Saturday, and prior to evening performances of the Inter. national Theater Festival.