Of Scientific Pinterest: “Science on the Back End” at Hauser & Wirth
Larry Bamburg, Marc Ganzglass, Rosy Keyser, Erin Shirreff, and Nick van Woert: Science on the Back End. Artists selected by Matthew Day Jackson at Hauser & Wirth
May 1 to June 16, 2012
32 East 69th Street, between Madison and Park avenues
New York City, 212 794 4970
If you don’t already know about it, Pinterest is a website acting as virtual pinboard where users can compile and share inspirational images. The compelling group show, Science on the Back End, is artist Matthew Day Jackson’s Pinterest page writ large. This is not the first time the five artists he selected have been brought together. While each artist’s work inhabits a separate room of Hauser & Wirth’s uptown space, the eclectic forms in various media share the easy dialogue of a one-generational family reunion. The discussions are about poetic gestures, engaging experimentally with materials, seeing things with fresh eyes, the provisional, the quotidian, and how we intersect with the history of just about everything.
Much of the work here is consciously indebted to Arte Povera and related historic moments none more than the altered classical statues of Nick van Woert. Dissect (2012), a sliced statue, is filled with a urethane and garbage filler much like the sliced detritus of Jedediah Caesar (coincidentally currently showing at D’Amelio Terras). Van Woert’s other statue Disappear (2012), having had translucent urethane dripped on it while face down, looks like a mishap in the Met’s classical wing with a Lynda Benglis paint pour. Haunted by Arman’s accumulations of everyday objects, History (2012) is a circular sampler of tools that could be weapons and vice versa. However, these are not readymade, mass-produced hammers, hooks, and chisels from Home Depot. Reaching way back to the dawn of human ingenuity, they are artisanal sand castings flawed by the renegade run-off of poured white bronze.
Other ur-moments can be found in Rosy Keyser’s slapdash, shanty-town, string-and-burlap abstract paintings, Marc Ganzglass’s galvanized steel Wheel (2011), and Larry Bamburg’s precariously stacked animal bones. Bamburg’s works are particularly well situated in the only room in the gallery with a white marble floor and skylight, both of which cast mausoleum sanctity on his resuscitory efforts. In Bamburg’s most complex piece, Bone Stack #31 Shown in at 60in center, Frozen (2012), the natural history museum, the supermarket freezer case, and Hans Haacke’s Condensation Cube (1963-65) come together in a monolith glistening with moisture, a monument to cycles of life.
Ganzglass offers the most reductive gestures, especially in his metonymic Shear Pin (2010), a cast of an actual shear pin the artist found on train tracks in Brooklyn. Used to connect train cars and designed to break in the event of an accident, this homely little object speaks to sacrifice in general, small losses preventing greater ones. And if you look very closely at the black fabric of his Wiper (#1) (2010), another poignant encounter with a found object, you can see the ghostly imprint of dollar bills, a Shroud of Turin of our current god.
Erin Shirreff really digs into the nitty-gritty of vision in a deceptively simple video, Lake (2012). Depending upon when you walk in on the silent loop, the projected image of a picturesque landscape can appear to be a realistic painting or a postcard reproduction. It is in fact a found snapshot from the artist’s family archive which she manipulates in real time with lights, shadows, and colored gels; that’s right, no Photoshop. Playing with assumptions that everything today is digitally manipulated, Shirreff conjures an array of moods: sepia tone nostalgia, spiritual bursts of light, somber overcast skies. Slowing things down with very gradual shifts, sustained looking is richly rewarded by action taking on new meaning and associations running the gamut from prehistoric glaciers to family outings.
Bringing things full circle, Jackson even included a work of his own in response to the show, a high-polish stainless steel ruler hanging on the wall titled Nothing More Than the Cumulative Sum of My Experience (2012). The piece reflects both his attitude toward art in general and a sliver of anyone standing before it. Jackson’s reminder that an artist’s vision can extend to satisfying curatorial efforts recalls Robert Gober’s presentation of Forrest Bess at the 2012 Whitney Biennial.