Duffy sculpture out of place in gallery


The sculptures of William F. Duffy, now on view at Galerie Francoise, may look appropriate in certain places. A gallery of contemporary art is not one of them.

Duffy is a sought-after commission artist whose works decorate malls and other structures from coast to coast and even internationally. He has been commissioned to execute works for places as far-flung as San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago and Athens -- Greece, not Georgia. Locally, Duffy has executed works for the Benton Building on Fayette Street near City Hall, the library at the White Marsh planned community in eastern Baltimore County and the Symphony Woods office center in Columbia.

In such places, as decorative elements in architectural settings, Duffy sculptures may be at home. But as stand-alone sculptures in a gallery setting, where they must be viewed on the level of serious contemporary art, they do not succeed at all.

Part of the problem may be that the versions at Galerie Francoise are cast of a fiberglass-reinforced gypsum cement rather than bronze. (They may be ordered in bronze as well.) The material, painted, looks cheap and plastic-like and contributes to the impression of slight, showy work.

The exhibit, containing only six pieces, is called "Down the Ocean" for its mainly sea-oriented theme. "Doctor Triton (Triton)" centers on the figure of Triton, a demigod of the sea in Greek mythology who combines the head and trunk of a man and the tail of a fish. Here he uses a seashell as a trumpet, holding it to his mouth with one hand while the other hand rests on the dolphin swimming beside him.

The other life-size work here is "FGR-CEO-WFXD.COM (Octopus Man)." This standing figure -- of a man clothed in a suit -- sports an octopus for a head and, according to the artist, represents the octopus-like grasp of the modern-day business executive (thus the CEO of the title).

The best that can be said of these sculptures is that they show technical skill and are accomplishments of greater complexity than Duffy's other four works here. They are "Birth of Venus (Shell with Face)," whose subtitle aptly describes the piece; "Self-Portrait of the Artist Being Pursued by a Large Mouth Bass (Dream)," which includes an actual large mouth bass treated by a taxidermist; and -- most egregious of all -- "Blue Eye Ball (Eye Sphere)" and "Lip Shtick (Lip Sphere)," two spheres whose entire surfaces are made up of eyes and lips, respectively.

Neither Duffy nor Galerie Francoise is served well by this show.

"Down the Ocean"

What: Sculpture by William F. Duffy.

Where: Galerie Francoise et ses freres, Green Spring Station, Falls and Joppa roads

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m. Sundays, through Aug. 30

Call: 410-337-2787

Pub Date: 7/22/97

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