Magazine article Artforum International

"Stubborn Materials": Peter Blum

Magazine article Artforum International

"Stubborn Materials": Peter Blum

Article excerpt

"After innovation--the critical deluge; after the deluge--fashion; after fashion--the group show; after the group show (and its coverage by mass media)--criticism of criticism. These episodes replace each other rapidly on the art scene today, crowding good and bad art alike off the stage in preparation for the next act." The words, Lucy Lippard's, are from 1966, but they couldn't feel less dated. The banality of most group shows, compounded with their inevitably short shelf lives, makes a good one--summer or otherwise--that much more arresting. "Stubborn Materials," curated by gallery director Simone Subal, was one such show, especially because its strategy seemed to be to deter cursory scanning by assembling works that subvert presumptive meaning. Resisting gimmicky double takes in favor of earnest wit born of happenstance accumulations (and savvy juxtapositions of unspectacular supplies), the works gives the impression that their details count.

Less a look (or in Lippard's terms, fashion) than a set of sympathetic, willfully refractory tendencies, the works, representing nine New York-based artists--Larry Bamburg, Jonah Freeman and Michael Phelan, Nick Herman, Rosy Keyser, Jutta Koether, Ian Pedigo, and Heather Rowe--suggest a kind of DIY formalism. Process-driven abstraction reigns, with stuff culled from the aisles of Home Depot (house paint, vinyl, insulation foam, wallpaper, mirrored glass) and the pages of old magazines. Keyser's Sad White Music, 2007, an orb of house paint on a sawdust-encrusted canvas support, and Smithson, 2007, a collage of enamel and paillettes on a blown-up 1970s copy of Smithsonian Magazine with a rope-harnessed rain-forest biologist swinging above a verdant canopy on its cover that becomes the painting's ground, exemplify both operations.

Reclaimed debris, while hardly localized, is a crux for Pedigo: Blind, blocks, 2007, comprises a straw beach mat and newsprint collaged on a wall, while the forlorn Structure Left Remaining, 2006, features a marked-up block of foam fixed atop a spindly bamboo tripod. …

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