Stubborn Materials

June 29 – August 25, 2007
at Peter Blum Chelsea

'Stubborn Materials'

October 1, 2007

Metal was one of the recurring motifs in this smart and scrappy group of sculptures, paintings, and photographs, and it proved quite versatile despite the implications of the show's title. Wads of tinfoil doubled as puckered, craggy landscapes in Jonah Freeman and Michael Phelan's large, high-contrast photographs, and metallic paint tamed nature in Nick Herman's sculpture Blind (2007) and splashed in dimpled rivulets across Rosy Keyser's semiabstract painting of a guitar. For a show that reveled in messes (the largest of which was Larry Bamburg's ceiling-fan-powered cyclone of detritus), Freeman/Phelan's embrace of postconsumer waste would have seemed to fit right in. But next to works that did more with their humble origins, the photos' gritty chic was gimmicky - and ultimately disposable.

Of the artists using found materials, Ian Pedigo had the best sense of humor. His Structure Left Remaining (2006) is a before-and-after scenario gone awry. Working from a tiny newspaper clipping of a red-and-white-striped beach umbrella (which is taped, like an inset, to the finished work), he created his own version with a yellowed foam drum and a bamboo stand. Pedigo's mock-up is ridiculously far from the picture: it looks like a giant earplug on a tripod, topped off with a childish, streaky block of red marker for stripes.

Reversing Pedigo's process, Heather Rowe's clever installation Plans that have fallen through (2006) takes something messy and cleans it up. Using black-flocked wallpaper, Rowe made a stencil based on German architect Bruno Taut's plans for the 1914 Glass Pavilion in Cologne. She mounted her design on the wall and arranged beneath it, at table height, a circular grouping of black glass slats in the same pattern - a reflection in solid form. The plans have, in effect, "fallen" forward to shape the sculpture below, turning an untidy phrase into a recipe for order. In making works that often twist their components into new, less recognizable forms, these artists approached everyday materials with flexible minds. -LAMAR CLARKSON