Hot Metal is a group show at Space gallery whose title is only about half true. All of the sculptures are clearly metal, created by artists working in differing styles and substances. But the works themselves range from blazing to frigid to merely tepid … and the impetus behind these works, and the exhibit as a whole, are something you'll have to guess at.
There is much more good than bad here. The most literal, as well as the most surprising, interpretations of the theme are Michael Dominick's assemblages that literally generate heat, including a tower of radiators and a statue of the Virgin Mary. The warmth they produce gives the sense that you are standing next to a living thing.
Skill and beauty overflow in several works by Oleh Bonkovikyy. The sculptor's four pieces travel from the heady hedonism of early 20th-century bronzework to the geometric fascination of Eastern European iconography: An eagle soars on detailed feathers, and two turtles crawl over pedestals like ornate helmets; a sun and a cross provide double interest with the shadows they create.
Tim Kaulen's "Go Finch," a man-sized bird lit from within, is colorful and cute in its features, fearsome in its magnitude. Cal Lane's "Wheelbarrow" upends the hardy apparatus and beautifies it with lacy floral filigree, while leaving its power intact. A tin man reaches out to oilcans with upturned palms in Glen S. Gardner's "Feed Me," and Carley Jean and Ed Parrish's "Shadows of a Place We Knew and Together We Move Through" takes over a corner with metal reimaginings of organic shapes: leaves, petals, tendrils.
Space gallery has great big windows and lots of light. But a few factors detract from the exhibition.
Some of the works lack labels bearing titles and artists' names. Artist Rick Bach, for example, is listed on the exhibit's promotional postcard, and his work visible on the wall, but his name isn't on the price list, and there's no marker identifying his piece. For those familiar with the local art scene, Bach's style is easy to spot -- but Space actually gets impulse foot traffic.
Even for work that is labeled, the only other information available is how much everything costs. In the case of a tinfoil rip-off of Mobile Suit Gundam Japanese-anime figures -- works that cost more than six grand -- this bit of data only serves to make you want to clothesline someone.
Tragically, the house and art studio of the show's curator (and participating artist) Ed Parrish Jr. burned down just days before this show opened, which may explain the lack of curatorial follow-through. Nevertheless, a CV and five-page statement aren't necessary; a sentence per artist, and a paragraph from the curator, would be a fine start.
Signs are good, especially when asking an unhelpful gallery staffer proves useless. (Yes, young emo boy, the world is cruel and unforgiving. But if you can't muster a moment of eye contact for someone asking a simple question, perhaps your time should be spent taking in your pants in the privacy of your home, rather than staffing a desk at a gallery.)
There's no denying that some of the metal presented here is quite hot indeed. But the welcome you're given can be chillingly cold.
Hot Metal continues through March 15. Space gallery, 812 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412-325-7723