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Shaped for contemplation

The poetic world of the Italian sculptor Andrea Cascella is well exemplified in ''Summer Solstice.'' The configuration, strangely complex in its apparent simplicity, is composed of pure geometric shapes. Luminous reflections play from one curve to another - highlights here, shadows there.

The aim of art is the sharing of an emotion. Quite often an artist will adopt abstract or semiabstract images for the needed evocative power; and why not? Fantasy was and always will be an important ingredient of art. ''Summer Solstice'' unites abstractions that are allusive depictions of natural phenomena.

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At the 32nd International Biennial of Art in Italy, Andrea Cascella was assigned an entire room for an exhibition of his sculptures. Before and since that honor, Cascella's work has been acclaimed in major art centers, including New York, Paris, London, Milan, and Rome.

The word ''solstice'' - solstitium in Latin, meaning ''sun caused to stand still'' - derives from an ancient belief. It was held that the sun, in making its regular daily trip around the earth, paused on the longest and shortest days of the year, generally June 21 and Dec. 21. These are known even now as the summer and winter solstices.

With notable economy of means and considerable aesthetic license, Cascella has availed himself of the legend to devise and produce this ensemble of singular purity. Solemn, ample, with a delicate chiaroscuro, the sculpture generates a sense of awe.

For centuries Italian artists have been celebrated carvers of stone. Cascella continues the tradition in his personal classical-modern style. He belongs with the group of contemporary artists who feel the correct procedure lies in taking the hands of past masters and forging ahead toward the future, using new ideas, techniques, and significances.

Cascella's figures are compact, serene, and beautifully crafted. Volumes, planes, masses, are set against or inside one another. The extraordinary security of the vital interlocking structure results from his superb ability to fashion separate pieces so they fit together perfectly.

Coming from a whole family of artists, Cascella learned early that marble lends itself to contemplation by the spectator as well as the sculptor. It occupies space and light at the same time that it is permeated by them.

Because Cascella understands thoroughly the inherent expressiveness of the hard stone, he can utilize its possibilities to advantage. ''Summer Solstice'' is a delight to behold.

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