Rita McBride: Alexander and Bonin

Article excerpt

For almost twenty years, Rita McBride has exploited the tropes of modernist architecture and design, lately deriving maximum effect from increasingly simple interventions. Her last New York solo outings, a pair of exhibitions at Alexander and Bonin and SculptureCenter in 2003 and 2004, respectively, gave viewers the chance to acquaint themselves with McBride's treatment of interstitial spaces and building infrastructure, which she manages to imbue with psychological resonance. By altering scale, streamlining design, or isolating objects from their contexts, McBride made the air ducts, parking structures, awnings, skylights, and other industrial forms she appropriated speak not only of tensions between art and architecture, but also of the alienation and dislocation that often characterize the urban experience.

But whereas those works, despite the muteness of their minimal forms, function as evocative, open-ended diagrams of the objects from which they are derived, the sculptures and prints in this exhibition exemplify too neatly their animating concept, leaving the viewer with little to chew on beyond their purely formal variety and polish. If other of McBride's recent sculptures are abstractions from functional objects, here she took a representational approach, presenting oversize models of architects' and designers' tools. "Tools are forged from plausible lies," the artist writes in an accompanying statement, "contrived to represent an alternate reality so convincing that we do not question their by-products." Abstract concepts may have arbitrarily guided us to these tools' forms and proportions, but merely pointing out this fact does little to encourage consideration of alternative ways of shaping space.

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Titled "Rita McBride: Double to Watch, Triple to Help"--perhaps a humorous reference to the exorbitant fees charged by design professionals--McBride's exhibition featured, among other objects, a group of French curves rendered in hand-cut glass, objects carved from spruce, and a series of templates rendered in various materials in both two and three dimensions. …