Ben Jackel makes amazing, deceptively simple sculptures that resemble the familiar objects they depict in precise, witty detail, even as they dissemble as to what materials they are made from. He is best known for a technique of sculpting in stoneware and wax, creating a dark surface sheen and dimensional, sensual quality that makes his collapsed fire hoses, wild animals, toy Roman soldiers and drainpipes all seem to be made of heavy metal. They are gorgeous, luxurious follies that, by privileging craftsmanship over "serious" content, refocus attention on their status as made objects, on the strange fact that they exist and the art history of that existence but not on their meaning. The particular achievement of his new show, "Zero Percent Contained," is that he's managed to make work that remains instantly identifiable as his own while flipping the scripts on both form and message. Responding to images of war and military design, content reigns now to the point of profound narrative. Made of wood and graphite, his surfaces still glimmer with shadow-like steeliness, but the combat planes and exploded Humvees read much more handwrought and also look much more like they are, in fact, wood and leaded patina. It's a neat trick, and a timely evolution, too. And speaking of "neat tricks," master of multidexterous Pop punnery Don Suggs exhibits new work in the upstairs gallery in "Thermal Pool Paintings and Paradise Prints" which is pretty much just what it sounds like. L.A. Louver, 45 N. Venice Blvd., Venice. Thurs., May 24, 6-8 p.m.; exhibit runs Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m., thru June 20; free. (310) 822-4955, lalouver.com.
Tuesdays-Saturdays. Starts: May 24. Continues through June 30, 2012