Art in Review; Jeremy Comins
By ROBERTA SMITH
Published: November 18, 2005
529 West 20th Street, Chelsea
Through Dec. 10
Disparaging Chelsea may be chic, but the art within its precincts encompasses much more than hot names, out-of-control bandwagons or mindlessly commercial baubles. Consider this exhibition of carved-wood sculptures by Jeremy Comins, a Brooklyn-based college art teacher as well as the author of books on African, Japanese, Eskimo and Latin American crafts.
Mr. Comins is 67, and this is his sixth solo gallery show in New York. His style cannot be called original or especially current. His work, which is rife with Surrealist biomorphisms and the rich wood tones of Danish modern, evokes Brancusi, early Calder and Noguchi mixed with bits of Nevelson and H. C. Westermann. But Mr. Comins accommodates these associations with an easy sophistication and palpable integrity and an almost infallible sense of touch, scale and composition. His way with wood encompasses its traditions in art, furnituremaking and architecture.
His constructions, wall reliefs and free-standing reliefs have an airy, acrobatic quality. Assembled from small, elegantly ambiguous shapes -- bone boomerangs, flower wrenches and golf-tee teeth -- they balance deliciously between abstract and real, totemic and geological, cosmic and embryonic.
Mr. Comins's work belongs to the tradition of better-known wood artists like Betty Parsons and Sidney Geist. Some of his smaller pieces have a whittler's liveliness, but mostly his burnished amalgams reflect the balance of vision and detail that any artist must have. His works, especially the regal ''Tower'' from 1978, would do any museum proud. ROBERTA SMITH