PURCHASE, N.Y. (AP) _ You'll want to keep your head up and hold your loved ones close as you wander among the artworks at the new exhibition of welded sculpture at the Neuberger Museum.

In the middle of one room, suspended from the ceiling, is Harold Cousins' ``Hanging Plaiton,'' a 5-foot-tall pillar of overlapping steel plates with brass spikes jutting out menacingly.

In another is Lynn Chadwick's ``Balanced Sculpture,'' with moving parts that look like Venus' flytraps with steel teeth.

And on a patio outside is George Rickey's ``Two Lines Oblique Down Variation II,'' a 12-foot-tall, wildly waving, wind-powered machine that could knock your teeth out on a breezy day.

It's not the friendliest-looking show of the season. The medium seems to lend itself to bulk, spikiness and darkness. But many of the pieces are engaging nevertheless and some manage to be graceful, open and airy, illustrating the wide range of effects possible in this distinctly 20th-century art form.

``Welded!'', as the exhibit is titled, is the first full survey of welded sculpture, says curator Judy Collischan, who has written the text for the accompanying $50 catalog, ``Welded Sculpture of the Twentieth Century.''

``It's such a new form, we really haven't had a chance to put it all together before,'' she says. ``It's a short history. But here we have the pioneers like Julio Gonzalez and Picasso, the famous names like David Smith and (Anthony) Caro and (Mark) di Suvero, and the young artists still working. You'll see we have it set up sort of in a timeline, so you can see the progression of styles and influences.''

Choosing among today's artists was challenging, she says, and those left out of the survey weren't happy.

``A show like this sets them in the historical context,'' she says. ``They love to be in the company of the artists who inspired them. At the same time, the older ones want to see if they've still got it.''

The show puts 95 pieces by 77 artists into the Neuberger's severe space, keeping things roomy and using silhouette and shadow to soften the obvious metallic effect.

A couple of days before the opening, David Hare's ``Dinner Table,'' a large work in steel, was being moved into a large, bright doorway opposite the entrance.

``This way, you'll be able to see the filigree against the daylight,'' Collischan says.

Meanwhile, sculptor Jedd Novatt was supervising a crew of five men straining to lift his 7-foot-tall untitled work onto a pedestal. The geometrically abstract piece, which looks like 50 open, rectangular boxes about to tumble to the floor, added to the precarious feeling as it projected a sensational shadow onto the wall.

Novatt, 42, says the exhibit seemed long overdue, given public enthusiasm for the medium. ``This has been embraced,'' he says, gesturing toward dozens of works. ``People want something to hold onto. They're tired of dealing with ephemeral stuff.''

Ephemeral these pieces are not, although some are composed of ``found'' objects _ what might otherwise be junk. Richard Stankiewicz made ``Beach Sitter'' from rusty nuts, bolts and plumbing pipes. John Chamberlain uses crushed cars _ sometimes with the original paint, sometimes with added color.

Again, these are not works one cuddles up to. Neither is di Suvero's ``Homage to Louis Pasteur,'' welded pieces of stainless steel balancing _ and movable _ on a steel spike. Or ``Hero's Head'' by Richard Hunt, which is evocative of both a helmeted warrior and a murder victim's skull. Or Mel Edwards' ``Lynch Fragment'' and ``Dry Days,'' which portray the shackles of slavery as strong bonds indeed.

Smith's ``The Billiard Player'' captures a pool shark, all jutting elbows and shoulders, and his downright dangerous-looking cue stick.

But there is also some whimsy, especially in the more recent sculpture and in work by women. Ann Sperry's ``Vessel I'' is steel, but it looks like a pink, beribboned eggshell. Helene Brandt's 22-foot-long ``Portable Bridge'' could be picked up and wheeled over to wherever a stream needed to be forded. Judy Pfaff's ``Straw Into Gold,'' though made from tin cans and bedsprings, is an airy cloud.

Nearby is Arthur Gibbons' ``Counting,'' a mass of colored blocks raised just a few inches from the floor. At first glimpse it looks like someone spilled a box of Crayolas.

The two Picassos on exhibit also have a playful feel, and don't overlook the tiny incised face on ``Femme au Bras Leve.'' But in general, the newer the piece, the jauntier.

``Things have gotten more playful, more colorful since the '70s,'' Collischan says.


``Welded!'' runs through Aug. 27. The Neuberger Museum of Art is on the campus of the State University of New York at Purchase. Two other interesting installations are on view: Carol Hamey's ``Portraits of the Artists as Young Girls,'' which involves about 100 little dresses, and works by Whitfield Lovell combining portraits with found objects.


On the Web: www.neuberger.org