Lévy Gorvy | New York
909 Madison Avenue
April 7 - May 21
We can hardly imagine the banality of the ant farm for the ant, who carries on even when its digs are revealed in an anthropogenic, vertical slice. So what, then, is the secret life of the sawdust and shavings likewise vitrined in these five untitled wall works, 2016, by Hans-Christian Lotz?
Each piece collects piles of khaki- or cardboard-brown-colored sawdust and shavings between two panes of Plexiglas framed in wood. The thin shelf-like area, created by a third, slightly smaller pane stuck to the inside-front with visible gobs of silicon, bunches the settling fluff into what we might recognize as monochromatic compositions of pockets and gaps. Thus Lotz cuts the works’ material self-reflexivity and mild chance with a plainly contrived gesture. The pieces cite the artifice of abstraction—Rothko’s downy rectangles come to mind—with a conspiratorial nod to Man Ray’s Dust Breeding, 1920. The image of dissected burrows is more than formal. The pieces dryly evoke, say, the mating habits of sawdust; they also embody our own acculturated desire to have nature flat and on a wall.
Under a table by the windows, a bunch of laptops and cords run a script mindlessly “scraping” headlines and ledes from NPR’s website. Gallery staff dutifully print and bind reams of the stuff to stack on the table. Forget Zika, screw Trump; in this “paperless” age, there’s a larger, unimaginable shape to this mound of merely human crises.