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David Isenhour gets colorful with Saturday Morning sculpture

Blame it on Marvel Comics and Looney Tunes. David Isenhour's Saturday Morning exhibition at Swan Coach House Gallery makes a case for all those childhood years spent sitting glued to the tube and poring over colorful newsprint magazines. His bright, shiny forms -- a shiny spaceship and a small modular house; creatures' tongues, antennae and tails; blimps and orbs -- hover along the walls or stand on shaped pedestals. Isenhour captures bubbling and dripping in mid-act, seemingly making liquids solid and defying gravity in works that look cast in metal instead of carved from wood.

What we recognize with some surprise in Isenhour's newest sculptures is connected to memory and shared cultural experience. It's lowbrow hermeneutics, if you will. Rather than referring to Scripture or classic literary texts, his sculptures allude to the energy and exclamation points brought to life in classic comic books and cartoons. He leaves out the cause, instead picturing the effect of getting bonked on the head, changing forms, dropping into a pool or shooting through space.

The Atlanta artist sands, polishes and paints his sculptures with high-gloss auto finishes. "Saturday Morning 1976," shown earlier this year in Breadth at Eyedrum, was our first look at his quirky, smooth way of abstracting the appendages and animations of imaginary creatures. Five red-tipped swellings line up on a small shelf for "Bonk on the Head." "Mutations," the darkest triptych, is a glittery brownish black. Antennae break through the smooth side of an embryo, a feeler protrudes from a shiny bulge and the surface of a bubble seems about to pop.

This exhibition marks Isenhour's selection for the 2001-2002 Forward Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award. His work has evolved since the 1997 Atlanta Biennial at Nexus Contemporary Art Center when he presented a wax altar to the great Mickey Mouse. Isenhour's artmaking has always had a sense of humor tied to childhood, but in the last couple of shows, he's developed a sophisticated style with a focus on formalism. There's a very smart angle to his unexpected viewpoints, and these recent abstractions of comic archetypes make a beautiful splash.

Saturday Morning continues through Aug. 3 at the Swan Coach House Gallery, 3130 Slaton Drive. Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 404-266-2636.

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