Critics’ Picks

Andrew Cannon, Beaver, Real Estate, John Astor, 2017, epoxy resin, epoxy putty, plastic resin, urethane foam, polystyrene, foam, pigment, 64 x 48 x 8".

New York

Andrew Cannon

White Columns
91 Horatio St
November 4–December 16, 2017

When a beaver makes its lodge, it’s an instinctual operation. The final structure is awkward, jutting, but has a peculiar beauty all its own. In the bottom left corner of Andrew Cannon’s Beaver, Real Estate, John Astor (all works 2017)—one of the wall-mounted, relief-like works in the current show, his first solo in New York—we see a profile of the titular creature (the beaver, not Astor), likely working on its house. Cannon’s gripping pieces take the beaver’s process as a model through which to think about artmaking: an unwieldy accretion of gestures and synaptic firings that are totally animal but capable of yielding otherworldly results.

At first sight, Cannon’s works appear to be heavy ceramics, as their “glazed” surfaces suggest fired clay. But upon closer examination the pieces are revealed to be made of urethane foam, among many other things—holographic foil, oil paint, putty, and gold leaf, to name a few—coated in pigment and epoxy resin. Epoxy is often used to seal metals, which adds a mechanical sheen to industrial surfaces. But the effect here feels handmade, like someone’s first stab at pottery, or Rosemarie Trockel’s memorable deformations of such craft media. Landscape recurs throughout: Italy in Goethe looks like a dirty slab of emerald and possesses the natural majesty of a scintillating geode. In Carnation Sign, there’s a mushroom with perfectly rendered gills. Above it, crystalline flowers bloom—an ecological image rife with the ecstatic. Cannon’s sculptures are newfangled objects that play with sensations and sensibilities as old as time.