By Victoria Donohoe
INQUIRER ART CRITIC
Michael Brolly's wood-turned sculptures featured in his midcareer retrospective show at Hicks Art Center Gallery, Newtown, possess vague overtones of menace in the direct and continuing surrealist tradition.
This artist, with a home and studio in rural Berks County near Mertztown, has a droll
;,sense of humor. And he is a precisionist in his use of detail in his craft-based artwork with striking virtuosity by means of the lathe and hand tools. 11 Certainly in all his work Brolly produces not realism but something haunting and very much beyond realism. Perhaps it is this sculptor's romance with detail in his artistry that prompts him occasionally to include mechanical devices in his wooden functional and sculptural pieces.
--Such Such works are literally an open-and-shut case. They also are a slight reminder of humanfigure sculptures in cast metal by well-known sculptor Ernest Trova that were easily assembled by snapping parts together, then just as easily disassembled.
Another point of interest is that an earlier generation of Brolly's family lived on the Main Line at Maybrook while that Wynnewood estate still belonged to its original owners, the Gibson family, and before Jack Merriam took it over and built the Thomas Wynne Apartments on a corner of it. Brolly has early childhood memories of visiting the "big house," still on that property.
Brolly's attitude as an artist is neither placid nor reserved. Not content to observe, he is involved with each episode he portrays and is a fluid draftsman and an economical one.
His use of wood is supple and sensitive, his images gracefully witty and uncontrived. Brolly's .pieces invariably deal more with style and inner expression than with fact, and science fiction has been mentioned as one of his sources.
There also is a constant attention to activity around him. He uses straightforward, familiar forms and conventions to ensure that this information is presented in a clear, accessible manner, whether it is baseball lore, spaceships, physical attributes of his mother-in-law, a jewelry case, mother/daughter relationships, a lectern, toys, or a letter opener.
And Brolly's work is as much engaged in giving a sly wink to the future as it is in remaining faithfully by the side of the present, his present.
Though easy to take, this exhibit should not be greeted as a strange novelty. The work in it has broad appeal. Now, doubtless thanks to an exhibit calendar hungry for new themes, we have a chance to look at what's going on.