Strikingly Simple Gestures: Gedi Sibony at Greene Naftali
Gedi Sibony at Greene Naftali
October 22-December 4, 2010
508 West 26th Street, 8th Floor, between 10th and 11th avenues
New York City, (212) 463-7770
Gedi Sibony was the only artist in the New Museum’s Unmonumental, the inaugural show of its current Bowery space in 2007, invited to create a site-specific installation for that exhibition. His corner, behind the elevators, offered a moment of quiet amidst the din of a lot of flashy, trashy art.
Sibony’s second solo exhibition at Greene Naftali is likewise a retreat from the cacophony of Chelsea. The Cutters (2007), a section of bare wall with a doorframe cut into it, and garnished with a simple drape of tawny fabric, stands at the entrance to the gallery. Rather than act as a blockade or a symbol of masculine power, like the brick and steel wall similarly placed at Dan Colen’s solo show at Gagosian, The Cutters frames another installation lying deeper inside the gallery space, inviting the viewer to enter.
Sibony’s constructions are not concerned with facture, or the treatment of surfaces but with the careful arrangement of objects in a space. Architectural details of the gallery such as water pipes snaking across the ceiling and industrial rolling doors are not superfluous but become integral to an installation that employs similar building materials. The industrial and discarded materials Sibony chooses are often slightly decayed, implying a personal history between the found objects and the artist. It is difficult to discern what has been found, made, or altered, but each element is in conversation with the work as a whole. The scraps of wood and framed posters and chunks of sheetrock may be detritus, but they have each been carefully chosen.
Leaning against a wall, draped from the ceiling, or jutted into a corner, the relationships of materials to one other and to the gallery space result in an air of theatricality and romanticism. For example, The Brighter Grows the Lantern (2010), perhaps the most straightforward piece in the show, consists of a swath of white vinyl hanging limply from the ceiling, lit from behind with colored spotlights. The purple and red light slide down the slick vinyl surface, evoking curtains from a miniature stage or a melted Helen Frankenthaler painting. The glow of the warmly colored light seeps dramatically out of the open doorway of the side gallery into the main space, where two installations in tones of gray, white, and browns lie under natural light from nearby windows.
The teetering, half-painted wood structure titled Asleep Outside the Wall (2010), on the other hand, feels contrived and self-consciously artsy. The more labored process involved in the making of this sculpture, as well as a jumbled collaborative installation with Diana Lyon in another back room titled Who Attracts All That is Named (2010), prove the artists’ simplest gestures are the most striking.
It is tempting at first glance to consider the work in terms of Minimalism. Industrial materials and a reductive appearance aside, however, Sibony’s work isn’t cold or monotonous. His materials have been lived with. The surfaces are not fussy, but worn. Because there is a distinctly narrative, romantic quality to these objects, a more apt comparison that suggests itself is with the artists of the Arte Povera movement, who employed everyday materials in a humble condition. And yet, Sibony’s show manages to feel simultaneously anachronistic and extremely contemporary making us less inclined to question the artists’ placement in art history, and more free to enjoy the simplicity and poetry in his arrangements.