11.23.2008

Cubes, Squared

Jackie Winsor at the Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, through November 29
From left: Circle Square, Pink and Blue Piece, and Gold Piece
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Two current shows, one in Manhattan, the other in Boston, are the result of sculptors thinking outside, inside, around and through the box: Jackie Winsor at the Paula Cooper Gallery, through November 29, and Tara Donovan at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, through January 4, 2009.

A generation separates Winsor and Donovan, yet they are united by their affinity for material, their use of the castoff (Winsor) or overlooked (Donovan) and their interest in the cube. The two exhibitions afford us an exceptional opportunity to look at the cubed sculptures of both artists.

Tara Donovan at the ICA Boston through January 4, 2009
From left: Untitled (Pins), Untitled (Toothpicks) and Untitled (glass). Work courtesy of Pace Wildenstein; image courtesy the ICA, Boston; photo: John Kennard
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Winsor’s cubes (and cubed spheres), handcrafted from industrial materials—lattice, plywood, concrete, stuff often found at construction sites or on the street—appear initially like alien objects, installed at a remove from one another in the gallery. There’s an outside and an inside, and you may peer into them. At least one of them peers back at you: Pink and Blue Piece, whose mirrored surface delivers a dose of your own curiosity. No secrets are revealed, and these works retain their mystery. They have become iconic—time-and-place markers for a particular point in art history: the Eighties, when Minimalism was holding on, Feminism had settled in, and SoHo was the center of the universe. If anything, their totemic power has increased over time. (So has the price: $300,000.)


Above: Winsor. Pink and Blue Piece, 1985; mirror, wood, paint, cheesecloth; 31 x 31 x 31 inches

Below, foreground: Winsor. Circle/Square, 1987; concrete, pigment; 34 x 34 x 34 inches




Winsor. Gold Piece, 1987; concrete, pigment, gold leaf; 32 x 32 x 32 inches

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Donovan takes the most commonplace of materials and, altering them little or not at all, amasses them into unexpected forms. A styrofoam-cup cloud that wafts overhead is surprisingly beautiful, a wall made of drinking straws is equally so. But Donovan’s cubes are the focus of this post. The ICA press materials liken them to Serra and Judd, and they’re not wrong, but they’ve overlooked the more direct lineage. Winsor is the younger artist's immediate antecedent.
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There is a divergence in that where Winsor's work is deliberately process intensive, Donovan does not make her own sculptures anymore. Still, it's process intensive for someone. The museum staff creates it from her directions. The knowledgeable ICA staffers explained the process: Thousands of toothpicks, about 650 pounds worth, are poured into a mold. Mass and material affinity hold the piece together. (Want a cube of pins? Buy the directions for $45,000 and make it yourself. I'm assuming the 1500 pounds of pins are included.)

But the process discussion is for a different post. This post is simply an opportunity to view together the work of two sculptors whose work has tangible affinities.
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Donovan. Untitled (Toothpicks), 1996, wooden toothpicks, dimensions unavailable, but about 40 x 40 x 40 inches. Image and detail from the Internet
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Material affinity may hold the form together, but you can see that entropy is already underway. Indeed, when I was looking at the work, I saw individual toothpicks loosen themselves from the mass and fall soundlessly to the concrete floor
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Detail below:
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1 comment:

pam farrell said...

Thanks for this post, Joanne. It is great to see Jackie Winsor's work again. I've long felt an affinity for its materiality. And I'm really looking forward to seeing Tara Donovan's work in Boston. Wonder what my 3 cats would do to the cube of toothpicks?
pf