Tangible Poetry

Other posts about the New York art fairs:

Free of a personal mandate to write about the recent New York fairs in a big reportorial way , I found myself looking at the work differently. I'm not sure I would have written about Big Black Objects if I'd felt the need to report venue by venue. I certainly wouldn't have stopped to ponder those Oddball objects. And I might not have stopped sufficiently long to be moved by the poetry of the three objects shown in this post. The names of their makers are big, mind you, but the work was comprised of small elements that required slowing down for closer inspection. Or is that introspection?

Armory Show: Mona Hatoum, Static, 2006, steel chair, glass beads, wire; at White Cube, London


With it's scuffed-up surface, the chair above looks like a leftover from the booth setup. But, no, the non-arachnid cobweb tells you otherwise. Closeup, that web is constructed of red glass beads. Are they attached to the wall and the chair, or is the internal armature sufficient to support the web as an object? And look how the structural intersections of the web are repeated in the lines of the adjacent drawings. (Sorry, I don't have the name of the artist who made the drawings.) This piece, a combination of the offhand and the handcrafted, of the thoughtfully installed and the seemingly forgotten, compels you to remember. And to wonder if, perhaps, there might be a Bourgeoisian spider around the corner.


Armory Show: Michal Rovner, video projected onto object about 18 inches in diameter; at Pace Wildenstein, New York City


At first glance this looked like a well-illuminated object from the Neolothic age. But wait, is that surface pattern moving? It is indeed. Each dot is a tiny silhouette of a human figure in motion. The figures are engaged in actions that look like work: lifting, moving, making things. This may not be a Stone Age object, but it conveys the eons of object making and, by extension, the history of human culture.

Armory Show: Wolfgang Laib, small marble object placed on the floor, surrounded by grains of rice; at Sean Kelly Gallery, New York City


Of course you know Laib's domestic mysteries--house-like shapes made of natural materials like marble or beeswax placed among piles of hand-gathered pollen or surrounded by handfuls of grain. Here in a bustling commercial enterprise, this tiny sculpture sat as a reminder of the slow, the quiet, the hand carved, the patiently gathered. (And now for the cynicism: I'm sure the price tag reflected the fast, the noisy and the big.)



Sweetcake Enso said...

Joanne, these have all been really lovely postings. My own experience of the fairs was distorted by a pressure (from where?) to "sum things up," and it has been refreshing to be shown otherwise. Thanks!

Joanne Mattera said...


Thanks for your kind words about the postings.

I do understand the need to sum things up--this is the type-A blogger's burden--and I will assume that mantle again in Miami. But this time it was a great relief to be able to "browse" the fairs rather than "cover" them, and to photograph in a slightly less obsessive way (i.e.500 pics instead of 1500).


Anonymous said...

That piece by Rovner is fantastic. By the way Joanne, I want to thank you for your amazing book on encaustic. I love it. If you ever put out another edition I'd like to suggest two other artists you might want to look at including: Maggie Hasbrouk and John Folsom. They are both photographers and both do some beautiful work. Heck, I recently found out even the Starn Brothers have worked with encaustic. Anyway, your book is really inspiring and the artists you chose are superb. So thanks!