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Chester County Press

Somber and silly, '4X3D' surprises at the Arts Alliance

09/24/2018 10:50AM ● By J. Chambless

'The Four Winds' by Holly Smith.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

A lot strikes you at once as you enter “4X3D,” the new sculpture show at the Oxford Arts Alliance. There's the vivid pink and yellow “Curve No. 4,” by Dennis Beach – four curving pillars that reach almost to the ceiling; as well as the life-size lady and her four dogs on leashes, “The Four Winds,” by Holly Smith.

It's a slam-bang introduction to a show of three-dimenstional artwork that is alternately sly and amusing, and dark and deeply resonant.

Smith is unfailingly delightful, from the dog walker in her buttoned-down coat to the epic struggle (and epic title) of “Where Upon the Moonman and the 3-Headed Lizard Try to Do the Dishes Together and What Ensued,” to the towering cartoon cat, “Companion No. 1,” that glowers down at you with a menacing grimace.

Even Smith's smaller works – the spread-eagled “Monkey Mind,” the box-like, satirical nun (“Nun Of Your Business”), and Smith's two small critters (“Good Intentions” and “Wisenheimer”) are dazzling good fun.

Dennis Beach, whose supremely skillful works are shown in prestigious galleries, creates sinuous shapes with eye-popping colors in his sleek, contemporary works. The wall piece “Bump No. 4” plays with color interaction and creates a bit of trickery that will have you questioning your perceptions. “Twist No. 4” is a floor-standing wood sculpture that is pure graceful motion. Beach's other large piece, “Fallen Column,” is a series of eight hollow ring shapes that fills a corner of the gallery.

On a completely different scale, but still impactful, are the life-size bird sculptures by Darla Jackson. “Scatter” and “Go For Broke” place the gently curved shapes of dead birds against the gallery wall, and the pairing “I Gave You All Of Me...” and “You Took Too Much” is a somber analysis of a failed or toxic relationship symbolized by birds. It's a powerful grouping.

Jackson's snarling, scarred black cat, “With Love XOXO North Philadelphia,” menaces you with an about-to-pounce stance, but the incongruous red ribbon around its neck suggests another story altogether.

Harold Kalmus goes for some big statements in his works, including “Expulsion of the Money Lenders,” a seven-figure tableau of nude figures in mid-confrontation, but Kalmus really goes big with “American Reliquary.” The box suggests the Ark of the Covenenant, decorated with gold figures holding weapons. There's a pistol, cradled on a pillow, inside.

His “Monument Proposal: The Victory of the Right” is an acid take on political dominance that strikes at the heart of some fundamental human rights. More subtle – but perhaps even more powerful because of it – is “Study of Sandy Hook Memorial,” a woman on her knees inside a sacred circle, with a cat's cradle in her hands. It's a heart-stopping contemplation of inexplicable tragedy.

Kalmus has two life-size figures as well. “MCB” has the grace and expressiveness of a Greek antiquity, and “MET,” which is painted in realistic colors, is arresting in its realism.

Taken from cartoon to catharsis, you will find plenty to challenge you, and enjoy, in this exhibit that goes for some bold statements, but isn't afraid to be silly.

“4X3D” continues through Oct. 12 at the Oxford Arts Alliance (38 S. Third St., Oxford). Visit for more information.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email

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