By LENNIE BENNETT
Times Art Critic
Dominique Labauvie's sculptures are as much about what isn't there as what is.
Much of his work has an illusion of lightness with slender swoops of steel that connect more massive forms. They occupy their space and create voids at the same time in a positive-negative interplay. And the herky-jerky way he bends metal and subtly ripples the surfaces with his torch suggest movement.
But new examples at Bleu Acier, a Tampa art gallery, also suggest more grounding.
Compare Thunderstorm (2008) with The Promised Land (2009), for example. The former stands at almost 7 feet; the latter is about half the height.
Yet Promised Land has more heft. Thunderstorm captures a series of lightning strikes much the way a photograph would, with arcs and bolts descending in a spidery pattern. Promised Land's idea is reduced to two strong lines, vertical and horizontal, joined by round metal strands resembling thick cables that are slightly curved to make their connections and seem to cradle the empty space between the two major components of the sculpture. The result, less literal, invites multiple interpretations.
The nine pastel drawings that accompany the sculptures point to a mature integration of Labauvie's sculptures and works on paper. (He collaborates frequently with Erika Schneider, his wife, gallery owner and a master printer, on prints.)
For most sculptors, prints and drawings act as studies or secondary materials for the three-dimensional art. Here, the drawings hold their own beautifully, courting a relationship of equality rather than subservience.
He treats the paper surfaces a lot like the metal by layering thick rubbings of the chalk for a texture that resembles paint, with the buildup of colors visible. His palette is finely modulated, white and black enriched by deep blue and oxblood chromatically applied and then blended into the background as softer tones.
Labauvie recently was awarded a prestigious Gottlieb Foundation grant, one of only 12 professional artists from an application pool of about 550 to receive $25,000 (which came unannounced one morning, by the way, to Labauvie and Schneider's complete surprise).
The couple and their daughter went on their first vacation in more than a decade, to see the giant sequoias in California, a dream of Labauvie's.
They and the "beautiful landscape" have already started the artist on a new series. Stay tuned.
Lennie Bennett can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8293.