Critics’ Picks

Sarah Barker, abject posture, 2008, clay, cement, cardboard, paint, mahogany, 40 1/8 x 27 1/8".

New York


Andrea Rosen Gallery
525 West 24th Street
October 25–December 6

Spotting trends in contemporary art is a relatively easy task, yet there is greater difficulty in labeling a “movement” while it is still in the making. One attempt might look something like “Base:Object,” a small, articulate show of recent sculpture curated by Andrea Rosen Gallery’s Cory Nomura. Through the work of Sara Barker, Patrick Hill, Matthew Monahan, William J. O’Brien, and Sterling Ruby, Nomura complicates the conventional purpose and appearance of the pedestal (an idea that isn’t fresh but nevertheless comes across as original here). In these works, the pedestal—that once-reliable mediator between viewer and object—is consumed by the artwork in an act of erasure and supplementation. Ruby’s Absolute Contempt for Total Serenity/DB Deth, 2008, a rectangular urethane form that rests off-center on a scratched and dirtied Formica and wood cube, and Hill’s Unstable Composition #4, 2007, a dyed-canvas and glass assemblage supported by a rectangular concrete plinth, incorporate pedestal-like forms, yet the expressionistically worked surfaces of the bases muddy the distinction between practical support structure and aesthetic object. The slender, four-legged “base” of Barker’s abject posture, 2008, buttresses a clay, cement, and cardboard construction in what seems like a clever exploitation of post-Minimal tropes. Monahan and O’Brien, on the other hand, incorporate busy figurative elements into their raised sculptures in an activation of physical and pictorial space. Each of these objects is human-scale and approachable as furniture, but there is something unsettling about the installation as a whole. Invoking the abject, unstable, or contemptuous, these works embody a kind of material anxiety: a tension between modernist principles, display sensibilities, studio production, and determinants of value.