_____________________________________________________THE PLAIN DEALER, MONDAY, MARCH 4, 1989
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Modern Society in ruin and decay

Environmental
sculpture offers
a bleak view

by HELEN CULLINAN
ART CRITIC

     Urban waste, genocide and death are themes visualized with powerful impact in the current show at Spaces. Simultaneously the gallery space becomes a junkyard playground, the scene of a funeral pyre and the post-mortem of a civilization. Once again Spaces has outdone itself in presenting an experience that is unforgettable and disturbing.
     The three installations are works of Cleveland artists Beth Wolfs and Billie Lawless and collaborators Raymond Ghirardo and Megan Roberts of Ithaca, N.Y. All three works express deeply felt concerns in environmental sculpture that ranges from almost playfully sardonic to macabre, and in one instance brutal and possibly offensive.
     The physical dimensions and feats involved in creating all three works are immense, as are, the effects of cruel, contorted and even hypnotic beauty.
     Wolf's, the resident environmentalist, leads the assault on the senses with her "Waterfront Development in Progress" composed mostly of found objects including wooden beams, chainlink and chicken wire fencing, theater curtains, rusty bedsprings and skeletons of car seats. The elements are reminders of the obsolescence, destruction and decay that surrounds us.
     But itís fun. The viewer enters the space, which is partitioned off by blackout cloth, and looks out on the street, . over a wood and, wire bridge to a frontal court with-& pair of suspended car seat swings. The "ground" is green. cloth, puffed: up with air. Television, anyone? The feature is a color video of seawater filled with dead fish. The sound that permeates this part of the gallery is the lapping of leaves and seagull cries. Later (this is a work in progress) there will be an audiovisual projection of a house in flames.
     The walls of Lawless' installation are painted bubble-gum pink The centerpiece is a funeral pyre of railroad ties supporting. a cross-shaped coffin affair; inside. are neon letters that spell "Broasted Babies Brew-Ha-Ha" which is the title of the piece. Little is left to the imagination in this elaborately decorated, tour-de-force of silkscreen and collage imagery. (including icons sand flags), drawn-on plexiglass, panels, video screens and paper rats. (Collaborators were Melissa Craig, Laszlo Gyorki, Steven B. Smith and Wolfe.) The sound track is African drums.
     "Inflated Ruins," in an enclosure at the rear of the gallery, represents the remains of a vanquished civilization in air-inflated white cloth boulders and bodies. Mounds of crushed marble contain tiny video sets showing the same figures, moving in what appears to be the last stages of death by some unseen force. This whole eerie scene is galvanized by a strangely soothing composition of abstract electronic music composed by Roberts, who is Ghirardo's steady collaborator in video and sound sculpture. They base this work on "ironic paradises" and "imaginary archaeological sites." Viewers may draw their own conclusions.