Peter Blum Gallery
Curated by Simone Subal
Larry Bamburg, Jonah Freeman/ Michael Phelan, Nick Herman, Rosy Keyser, Jutta Koether, Ian Pedigo, Heather Rowe
Stubborn Materials features eight New York-based artists who use materials in a paradoxical manner in order to reinvigorate the interpretive possibilities of abstract art. These artists place attention on a particular detail or an overlooked element as a means to reorient the reading of the work. Their formal decisions investigate the metaphoric and narrative potential of materials. Larry Bamburg’s kinetic installation combines swirling fishing lines, scraps of paper, and an electric ceiling fan. This creates an unexpected experiential situation, where the evocative motion confuses the actual reading of the work, leaving the viewer to wonder if what he or she sees is a flock of birds, a swarm of insects, or just scraps of paper. Along similar lines, Ian Pedigo’s sculptures and two-dimensional works are made from found and reclaimed debris. In an attempt to recontextualize these materials after they have dropped out of commercial circulation, Pedigo builds seemingly unstable objects that play with systems of associative memory. Heather Rowe probes architectural modules and fragments. Diverging components such as industrially produced materials are set into a relational structure with decorative elements like mirrors, producing an extended narrative about how individuals negotiate space. Jutta Koether’s punk-poetic paintings play with the tension between pictorial surfaces and applied materials, and form a complex yet straightforward layering of expressive abstractions. This translation of exterior references and connotations into a gestural language can also be seen in Rosy Keyser’s large-scale paintings. Here, an often rough technique of pouring paint is combined with a deliberate attention to detail. This allows Keyser to equally blend emotional and rational concepts. Nick Herman’s sculptural and two-dimensional objects are studies in cultural archeology, addressing questions of geology, anthropology, and sociology through formal strategies. Jonah Freeman and Michael Phelan’s large prints are scans of crumpled aluminum foil. The precision of these images suggests an expansive landscape, however this allusion is contrasted by the matter-of-factness of the actual material.The art in “Stubborn Materials” at Peter Blum Chelsea breaks rank with the wall, the rectangle, abstraction and even the object itself. Among the show’s several newcomers, Larry Bamburg contributes a nearly invisible spinning galaxy made of tiny bits of detritus (beads, paper clips, a dead cricket) strung on monofilament from the blades of a revolving ceiling fan. Ian Pedigo creates wall pieces and sculptures by combining found and made materials with startling grace: an old straw mat here, a red-stained cylinder of foam on a tripod of bamboo there. Rosy Keyser, another newcomer, has a promiscuous pictorial sensibility that veers from an enamel-and-sawdust abstraction, to a fittingly obstreperous collage tribute to Robert Smithson, back to an abstract splash of silver paint that looks like frozen mercury. Nick Herman is even more capricious. He makes a polyurethane cast of a rock face look like bronze, constructs a duck blind with silver twigs and feathers made of magazines, and then goes over to the dark side of realistic obviousness with “Halves,” in which sculptures of the front portions of a wolf and a sheep confront each other warily. Heather Rowe presents a mirrored wall piece that is more two-sided (and domestic) than you think, and uses more mirrors and perceptual tricks to evoke a domed pavilion from 1914 by the architect Bruno Julius Florian Taut. Jutta Koether contributes a small, shiny Minimalist triangle and a large, moody canvas that riffs on Neo-Expressionism; both black, they seem to honor the opposite poles of postwar German painting, Blinky Palermo and Anselm Kiefer. The ever-practical Jonah Freeman and Michael Phelan make large, lustrous archival prints from scans of rumpled aluminum that are triple plays on Gerhard Richter’s work. This smart and subtle show has been organized by Simone Subal, the gallery’s director. Full of ricochets among seemingly disparate works, it celebrates the endurance of art and beauty by emphasizing happenstance and fragility with materials that refuse to relinquish their identities.
In These Shows, the Material Is the Message By ROBERTA SMITH, August 10, 2007
Most of the artists in this show were born in America in the seventies, which positions it as an essay on the current Zeitgeist. Refreshingly, the statement it makes about young artists’ preoccupations is convincing without being portentous, ironic, or abject. Junky materials predominate—a dead cricket, a cast-urethane rock, aluminum foil, old surf photographs, insulation foam, flocked wallpaper, mirrored glass—as do highly formal configurations, such as Ian Pedigo’s fraying rattan beach mat collaged with newsprint and mounted on the wall, or Rosy Keyser’s splat of house paint and sawdust on canvas. The show, which was curated by Simone Subal, takes a stance that is witty, restrained, and ambitious.
Amid a show of elegantly resuscitated detritus (such as Ian Pedigo's conglomeration of yellowed newsprint and ratty straw mats), Larry Bamburg's abject constellation of fishing line strung with masking tape, paper scraps, and Band-Aids rates special notice. Suspended from two ceiling fans, one with shorter blades centered beneath a larger fixture, these skittering networks spin in opposite directions, forming nested, ephemeral cylinders. Dull lead weights and a red plastic bead dance with scintillating grace; a snarl of plastic line flashes in and out of skylight sunbeams like a stuttering angel. It's a celestial carousel for one of Italo Calvino's diffident galaxy trippers.