Stubborn Materials

June 29 – August 25, 2007
at Peter Blum Chelsea

ART IN REVIEW: In These Shows, the Material is the Message

The New York Times
August 10, 2007

by Roberta Smith

Chelsea’s summer group shows are both test sites for new ideas and polling stations for aesthetic trends. They indicate what might be seen elsewhere in the near future — in the next Whitney Biennial, for example. A few summers ago there was an outbreak of ’60s psychedelia, rainbow colors and all-around craftsiness, lots of sewing and knitting and rather twee art. Then followed a summer or so of heavy-metal boys in black.

This summer several group shows seem to say “back to basics,” starting with titles like “Stubborn Materials,” “Substance & Surface,” “Laying Bricks” and “The Lath Picture Show.” Perhaps a younger generation of artists is adding its own spin to the long-running romance with the Post-Minimalist styles of the late ’60s and early ’70s. The shift away from language and images and toward fairly raw materials is hardly new, just more pronounced.

Peter Blum

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.