Critics’ Picks

Fin Simonetti, Pledge 2, 2019, Spanish blue alabaster, white alabaster, blown fuse, 14 x 8 x 3 1/2". From the series “Pledge,” 2019.

New York

Fin Simonetti

88 Eldridge Street 5th Floor
March 3–April 21, 2019

The title of Fin Simonetti’s exhibition, “Pledge,” evokes the ways we are taught—practically from birth—the supposed virtue of belonging to and believing in things, such as clubs, cherished political leaders, and social scripts that dictate who plays perpetrator or victim, top or bottom. Here, the artist has carved various protective objects and symbols from alabaster, including ear plugs, candles, a fire extinguisher, dog paws, a lock, and genitalia. But Simonetti knows that what we turn to for safety can often lead, rather than deliver us, from violence. Rendered life-size and in uncanny detail—from the veins of a severed penis to the dribbles of melting candle wax—these sculptures, part of a series also titled “Pledge” (all works 2019), balance precariously on a metal handrailing that cuts through the center of the gallery. This everyday, ubiquitous item (yet another device intended to provide stability or support) feels too narrow to be an effective foundation and lends the installation an air of vulnerability, or impending disaster.

The color blue, be it for boys or the Bonnie Blue Flag, permeates the exhibition. For two wall pieces, Cathedral 1 and Cathedral 2, Simonetti has collaged old barbershop posters and obscured them behind stained glass—only the ears of the male models have been left unobstructed. A four-minute video of weight-lifting men near the show’s entrance, Pledge 1, presents a series of close-ups of their faces, which strain from feats of strength and endurance. Why do they subject themselves, and us, to such misery? There can, after all, be pleasure in pain. Learn to top from the bottom, boys—I hear it really expands the senses, not to mention it’s a great deal of fun.