Art that's off the wall

‘Tikal’ an oil on canvas, is by Robert Chapman, a North County artist and former apprentice to Willem DeKooning, who is new to The Loft gallery.
‘Tikal’ an oil on canvas, is by Robert Chapman, a North County artist and former apprentice to Willem DeKooning, who is new to The Loft gallery. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE ARTISTS

Sculptor Robert Oblon describes his artwork now in a new display as a cross between a jigsaw puzzle and an amoeba.

As featured artist at The Loft Gallery, Oblon is showing his three-dimensional sculptures in the exhibit titled “Over the Edge,” along with 14 other artists.

His Puzzle series, with work that ranges from 5-feet-to-7-feet high and protrudes from the wall, fits right in at the roomy gallery.

“I found that some of the larger pieces coming off the wall become imposing,” Oblon said, noting that not every home or office could accommodate such sizes with their irregular shapes.

Oblon has been creating these sculptures for four years, a takeoff on “free-form, totally organic” doodles he has made since childhood. His abstract sculptures seem to float.

After Oblon cuts shapes from plywood, he carves out a pattern within the shape to create the depth as the pieces, supported by aluminum, mount on top of each other. These smaller holes allow portions of other sections, or even the wall, to be visible.

“It’s creating sort of this tension, back and forth, allowing the positive and negative shapes to interact with each other.” He covers the pieces with linen or canvas, which he paints with brightly colored metallic acrylic or oil sticks. Oblon appreciates the large windows at the Loft, which let in the natural light, causing the art to shimmer.

The artist seldom starts with drawings, making his decisions as he works. “I don’t totally let the form control where it goes,” he said.

After studying sculpture at Long Beach State University, Oblon created special effects for Hollywood, including the science fiction movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” He also ran a bronze casting foundry for a dozen years. He began building a small home foundry after moving to Arroyo Grande in 2001. The alchemy of pouring metal, for Oblon, is akin to creating gold. “It was always magic,” he said.

With his background in sculpting, it is no puzzle why he is doing his current series. “There’s something about three-dimensionality that makes more sense to me,” he said.

Other artists in the show who work in three dimensions include Larry Le Brane, Jack Biesak and Michael Campos.

Biesak’s media includes steel, bronze and marble, expressing abstract, iconographic images and archetypal symbols.

Campos, an architect, wheel-throws his ceramic pots and then treats the surface as if it were a canvas, creating shapes and patterns.

Le Brane creates unusual footwear in fused glass.

In August, Evani Lupinek and Rosa Lee Sonney, both artists, took over as directors of the Loft Gallery. They continue to show work by such painters as Tom Schultz, and because of their concentration on abstract art, Robert Chapman, who was Willem deKooning’s assistant for 10 years, is now among the artists featured.

“I like really off-the-wall stuff,” said Sonney.