Things are far from all bad, however, as is evidenced by a show at 22 Wooster Gallery, a few blocks farther south in SoHo. This is assembled by four talented younger artists who decided to put their best efforts forward jointly and to commit themselves seriously to a show that would tell the world in no uncertain terms precisely what they are as artists.
''Put Together'' consists of sculpture by Dan Hanna, Susan Hanna, Lynne Mayocole, and Rebecca Welz. It is a solid and effective exhibition. It is also something of a celebration of the fact that there are dedicated younger artists at work today for whom art is as much a process of formal and cultural engagement, as much a matter of shaping and communicating, as it of self-expression and creative satisfaction.
What these four were after here--and what, by and large, each has achieved--was a professional projection of their creative identities. This is not so much an exhibition of interesting or lovely works of art as it is a public avowal of who each of these artists is in a formal and stylistic--as well as in a committed - sense.
In a very real way each of these works is a graduation piece, a masterpiece (in the original sense of the word -- art that proves mastery), or the equivalent of an earned PhD. They are the collected and focused efforts of youth brought up to their clearest and most definitive forms -- and then laid out for all the world to see.
Each artist is represented by a very large, major work, as well as by a few smaller ones. Those by Dan Hanna and Rebecca Welz are predicated on constructivist principles, while the works of Susan Hanna and Lynne Mayocole represent a more free-form and improvisational creative attitude.
Dan Hanna's ''Primary Shift'' is a self-supporting piece made of aluminum plates, nylon fabric, and steel rods and bolts. Its formal identity, however, derives less from its materials and its colors -- two kinds of blue, a rich red, and yellow -- than from its exquisite balance of weights and pressures. It exists, as a matter of fact, precisely because its thrusts and counterthrusts -- its tensions and rigid anchoring, its play between gravity and verticality -- keep it precisely at the point of equilibrium between remaining upright and collapsing inward upon itself. And the tension and drama are repeated in a slightly different way in his smaller piece, which finds its identity partly by playing against a wall.
Susan Hanna's ''Aggregate (20)'' is a large wall grouping of rough conical shapes made of torn, sewn, and painted paper, fiberfill, and glue attached to a wall. It's a wonderfully organic work that reminds me of a cross between nests made by wildly imaginative birds and an aerial view of a native African village. It's fun, mysterious, and highly provocative -- and represents a creative mystique I find engaging but also impossible to analyze. Also on view are two excellent drawings, as well as photographs incorporating several of her smaller and quite haunting three-dimensional pieces.
Lynne Mayocole's ''Early Times'' is a complex and delightfully extravagant environmental piece made up of odds and ends of things like leather, ribbons, stained and waxed wood -- all found on the streets of SoHo. These are hung, attached, mounted, or placed on the ground to create forms that evoke unknown and unseen presences, but also exist as fascinating shapes. Her tiny, exotic wall pieces known as ''Flat Flashes'' are also a delight.
Rebecca Welz's ''Star Festival of Irrumagawa'' consists of sanded and painted acrylic plastic bent and folded over eight strips of wood suspended diagonally from the ceiling at two to three intervals. The plastic surfaces, either translucent or opaque, permit the light to pass through or to play on the solid color surfaces.
The color itself is muted and projects a softly atmospheric and lyrical quality that is enhanced by the gentle movements of each of the work's independently hung elements. There is a mellowness, and a restraint, about this work that evokes memories of Japanese art. And yet, if carefully studied, it quickly and totally establishes itself as very much of our time and place.
This is an impressive show -- and a handsome one. It is also the sort of exhibition project the art world needs. Give us 20 or so shows like this every season, and some of the slickness and trendiness of the commercial gallery world will gradually disappear.
At 22 Wooster Gallery through Feb. 20.