Trash Men

David McManaway and Jim Love: Still scavenging after all these years

As the Moody exhibition capably shows, Love and McManaway are at their best when specific thematic interests are successfully blended with their keen and dexterous use of material. The humor that is central to their work is most effective when finely balanced between pessimism and wit. In McManaway's case, the relationship involves a kind of aesthetic double take in which the amusing preciousness of funky antique baubles defers to wily yet puzzlingly elusive personal messages. Although most of the individual items -- the small curio-like tableaux such as Alligator Lady, Alligator/ Alligator, Portrait/Solo and Mother Eve -- maintain a terse and legible tone, they also reveal the artist's uncanny ability to recognize the potential of bric-a-brac to evoke character. These small amulets encased in cotton wadding suggest quasi-pagan fetishes.

More ambitious is the large Jomo board, in which fastidiously selected objects are presented like specimens arranged in an obliquely magical narrative. McManaway has been slowly producing jomos for more than three decades; the name comes from a film he saw as a boy in which a black man sells magic charms called jomos. Organized into niches as if they were altarpieces, McManaway's jomos contain severed doll-heads and doll-arms, skulls, bones, old sticks, baby shoes, pull toys, snakes, wooden blocks, old puppets and stuffed bears with "kewpie doll" feathers. At the center of this particular jomo is a wooden head with slits for eyes and mouth. A curving wooden vine snakes its way through the various niches, enters above the ear and protrudes like a rattle out of the forehead.

Like much of McManaway's work, most of Jim Love's small welded steel and iron "put togethers" present themes that have appeared in the artist's oeuvre since at least the MacAgy days. There are metal cogs rising like flowers out of pots, periscopes formed by fitting an "elbow" to a straight joint of pipe, and elegant little handles attached to some pieces in case of a quick and unexpected departure. The best sculptures here are never didactic, but invite us to laugh along with Love in his treatment of life's frightening jungle. People Will Say We're in Love consists of a house with nails driven through it like stakes and a handle attached to the roof, ready to be pushed down like the handle on a dynamite detonator. Volunteer is a spindly, brittle figure with a rusty rebar for a torso, its upstretched "arm" a crimped and ravaged piece of pipe. Comealong, a coil with a bulbous tip that curves up from a cylindrical bar, reminds us that eroticism and

alpable sexuality are also part of the comic spirit.
Sometimes the obsessive intensity that characterizes Love's and McManaway's works approaches cleverness. Even though the artists have spent their careers building distinct vocabularies of forms and images, the decade that served as their foundation was totally different from the present time of daily dangers, grotesqueries and horrors. Accordingly, the two artists' adherence to such timeless issues as preservation and preciousness, concealment and defense, often slips into a cute, idiosyncratic rehash of earlier, more compelling statements.

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