Critics’ Picks

Kristi Cavataro, Untitled, 2022, stained glass, 38 x 38 x 30".

Kristi Cavataro, Untitled, 2022, stained glass, 38 x 38 x 30".

New York

Kristi Cavataro

389 Grand Street
September 7–October 8, 2022

Chemists call glass an amorphous solid. Positioned between states of matter, it features a slightly tweaked, irregular molecular fabric that deviates from the crystalline compositions forming other types of hardened material. Like plastics and gels, glass is defined by a structural ambiguity at the most granular level, one split between strict organization and total disorder.

In Kristi Cavataro’s current exhibition, the artist seems to have taken her signature material’s idiosyncratic makeup as a cue for her sculptures’ beguiling forms. Each of the six works (all Untitled, 2022) are symmetrical, and in certain cases across more than one axis. For instance, the roughly cubic yet byzantine object that opens the show—realized in variegated shades of cream, slate blue, and lavender—most forcefully reveals Cavataro’s interest in deductive structures. The logical construction of this piece and others might even appear mechanical, as if 3-D printed, if one weren’t aware of the artist’s virtuosic system of fabrication. Cavataro achieves her intricate configurations by hand, flexing and shaping tiles of stained glass that are set into copper, lead, and tin.

 Nevertheless, in a vein similar to Man Ray’s Man and Woman photographs from 1918—in which rotary eggbeaters and metal reflectors serve as suggestive substitutes for a penis and breasts, respectively—sex and soma creep into Cavataro’s mechanomorphic sculptures. In one relief, a rectangular turquoise aperture extending out from its base on the wall resembles a gaping mouth ready for consumption. In another, a drooping band of pink tiles calls to mind any number of semiliquid viscera, retrofitted for museological display. Rhymed pairs of vertical beams transform other works on view into romantic couplings, their points of intersection a type of material copulation.

The figurative allusions that haunt the exhibition largely depend on the tubular elements Cavataro uses throughout her practice: undulating forms that tone down the sculptures’ neo-geo vintage to amplify their latent Surrealist tenor.