Cady Noland Approximately: Sculptures and Editions, 1984-99
461 West 126 Street
New York NY 10027
April 21 to May 21, 2006
The sculptor Cady Noland (b.1956) is a little like J.D.Salinger, who arrived big on the literary scene in the late 1940s, made a significant contribution, then more or less disappeared, keeping tight control over the release of his work ever since. This was similar to Noland’s career track, appearing at American Fine Arts in 1989, the Whitney Biennial in 1991, and Documenta in 1992, and participating in a number of important group shows. Then in 1994 she withdrew.
As a way “to incite the public’s desire to experience the real thing”—as the press release states—Triple Candie has produced an unauthorized exhibition of Noland’s work based on secondary sources. In the current exhibition, the gallery and four artists have attempted to recreate a number of Noland’s sculptures and editions utilizing the information culled from photographic images found on the Internet and in catalogues.
Triple Candie previously did something similar with the work of David Hammons, another reclusive but widely admired and influential artist. The gallery hung a series of 100 laser copies and computer printouts from previous catalogs of Hammons’ and presented his career history through images. They were taped to a plywood board adhered to the wall that ran around the perimeter of the gallery.
There is a cardboard multiple on the floor that was originally 50 x 50 inches. The one the gallery and artists assembled was 48 x 48 in. This change was perhaps not thought to be crucial but underlines the odd shifts that one perceives throughout the exhibition especially if one has a strong memory of the original pieces by Noland, as I do.
The artist used a lot of industrial hardware, such as aluminum scaffolding and hand-tools, as well as other things made of manufactured metals, like handcuffs. Since that time many of these objects have come to be re-designed by computer, taking them even farther away from cast unlimited editions of hand-designed material, which is what commercial objects were before the computer. So the sculptural muscle that was implied by Noland’s use of these products is reduced by the replicas made from flimsier, contemporary versions. Her well-known use of multiple stacks of six-packs of Budweiser beer, in another of the installations simulated here, also lack the sculptural oomph of the originals.
This may also simply be because of the absence of the artist’s eye and hand, in arranging the readymade materials, but points up a success of the project that may be unintended. In their simple effort to replicate another artist’s work under deadline and with a small budget, the project gave Noland’s work a life it never would have had if presented in the flesh in a commercial gallery or museum.
I don’t want to see the originals. I want them to remain free, as memory and rumor, rather than hauled into captivity by the treacherous and acquisitive market, those merchants of death to art. Besides, the work here is wonderfully under-aestheticized, too busy with itself to spend time trying to please the viewer, and it has a clear purpose. Most importantly, it asks more questions than it answers. What more could one want?