A joint show of the sculptures of Anthony Cafritz and Lincoln Schatz now at Henri Gallery is one of the most rewarding exhibits in town. The work of both young Chicago-based artists evinces an affinity, intentional or not, with that of those early-20th-century modernists who worked on the fringes of the Dada movement. Giacometti’s early surrealist efforts, especially, are brought to mind by several of Schatz’s elegant and rather formal black-painted or dark-finished metal structures, which serve almost as display racks for sundry found objects or plaster casts of hands, feet and various organs. His austere composition “Paranoia” is one of these.

While Cafritz also occasionally employs rigid, straight-edged structures of steel as part of his eclectic compositions, his are overall more organic-feeling, less symmetrical or mechanical looking. This artist also places more emphasis on texture and nuances of color integrated into his forms, as in the intriguing cast-concrete work “For Better Service.”

Despite this fundamental stylistic difference, the two sculptors complement each other nicely. Both have a very canny appreciation of the potential of their materials. Burlap, chicken wire, bits of rock, glass, cotton fabric-all manage to find their way into something somewhere. There is, one senses, a deliberate attempt to evoke a kind of “pawn shop” effect with the way the works are both conceived and displayed-a jumble of things in which to discover intimate surprises.

There’s a nice, robust grittiness to this show as a whole, too. The work of both artists exudes almost the kind of workshop atmosphere that always attends David Smith’s steel objects. This is especially evident in pieces such as Cafritz’s wall construction “Loss,” a roughly rectangular steel grill mounted on burlap-covered wood and supporting a concomitant structure made of wire and other elements. But it’s also true of many of Schatz’s pieces, particularly “Emasked” and “To Kill an Animal.”

The best thing about the work of these two artists is the evident love of process it conveys: the love of materials and of making things, whether those things have anything particularly pungent to say about anything save art or not. Messages are all well and good, but the special tactile delight of a well-crafted object speaks volumes all by itself.

By Michael Welzenbach


The Washington Post | May 16, 1992


© 1992 by The Washington Post