Collages with the material heft of sculptures and sculptures with the two-dimensional articulation of flat drawings characterize Florian Morlat's engagingly strange show at Cherry and Martin. (The show is the first of a two-part exhibition, the second installment opening June 8.) The palette is dominated by the red-black-white seriousness of Constructivist art, with its early 20th century emphasis on theory in service of productive revolution, while the gawky eccentricity of the forms is more in keeping with the tactile seductions of participatory sculpture by the late Franz West.
Morlat, who was born in Germany but has worked in L.A. for well more than a decade, adds cartoon verve to the mix. An undulating shape that looks rather like a bicorn military hat that might have been worn by Napoleon or Capt. Bligh turns up frequently.
Boot and mustache shapes do too. But any sense of strutting authority dissolves in the animated abstraction and modest materials -- cardboard, scrap wood, plaster, straw and shriveled-up bananas (yes, bananas). Plenty of black paint is slathered over everything, enlivened here and there by a few bold, bright colors, which gives the ensemble the playful aura of after-school hobby-craft.
There are eight floor sculptures, four wall reliefs and four mixed-media collages. Many works exude the look of modified street signs or personal billboards. Like Paul Klee diligently gluing together theater tickets and bits of newsprint, Morlat uses collage elements as fragments of an abstract language. But his signs advertise nothing except their own cheery, eccentric presence, marked by an engaging eagerness to socialize.
Cherry and Martin, 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 559-0100, through June 6. Closed Sun. and Mon. www.cherryandmartin.com