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Until a few days ago I considered Mark di Suvero to be a very good artist, respected and recognized for his monumental sculptures with their explosive energy. After seeing a new exhibition at the LA Louver Gallery, I think of him as one of the few living American artists to deserve to be considered great.

New works on display in the Gallery and on nearby Venice Beach, show familiar dramatic tension along with new elegance and a level of sophistication, that caught me completely by surprise. The large gallery space is taken, or, better to say conquered, by a giant sculpture, thrusting its rusty I-beams into the air, this way and that. Think of a behemoth standing on its hind legs and holding large silvery prey in its jaw. Suspended by a cable from the top of the 12 foot high rusty structure is a massive stainless steel round pendant, that slowly rotates when touched. The contrast between angular, super-macho tower and silvery pendant, which looks almost demure in this context, brings to mind a dancing couple. Though one would be wise to admire these dancers from a certain distance. The witty title to this spectacle of twisted and bent metal is "Bodacious;" it is smart and funny and in your face indeed.

When on September 11th I saw the twisted remains of the Twin Towers, its gruesome resemblance to Mark di Suvero sculptures struck me as an unfortunate threat to his career. Who would want, I thought, to deal with the dramatic tension of his sculptures, which echoes, unintentionally, the tragedy that has befallen us.

This exhibition put my worries to rest. One large and three smaller sculptures on display in the LA Louver Gallery, demonstrate a near Shakespearean range of emotions and conflicts, with no easy resolutions, no simple answers. Think of successful staging of "Macbeth" or "Hamlet" and the feeling of satisfaction it gives, in spite of tragic and violent ending.

Mark di Suvero, just shy of seventy, has been enjoying a long, distinguished career. At his age, artists, even famous ones, are often reduced to repeating themselves. So it is especially satisfying to see a veteran of the art scene, who keeps going strong, and saving the best for last. And may this stretch last for years to come. Think of the blossoming career of Richard Serra or Frank Gehry, whose best work is also produced in their mid-late 60's. In an American culture obsessed with youth, such longevity and slow gradual ascending to the pinnacle of one's art is an especially satisfying, alas, rare phenomenon.

See this show, walk slowly around the sculptures, notice how they change from being aggressive one moment to almost seductive the next, revealing graceful curves and shiny smiles. Metal in the hands of this sculptor appears to be both frightfully rigid and unexpectedly pliant, with the shapes and movement having heroic as well as lyrical dimension.

If, and when we decide to build a September 11th memorial to honor the tragedy, the courage, the triumph of the American spirit, I simply cannot imagine a better, more suitable artist than Mark di Suvero, to do justice to such a project.

www.lalouver.com

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