Critics’ Picks

  • Richard Wentworth, Writing History, 2019, galvanized chicken wire, wood trestle leg, bricks, 20 7/8 × 33 7/8 × 29 7/8 ''.

    Richard Wentworth, Writing History, 2019, galvanized chicken wire, wood trestle leg, bricks, 20 7/8 × 33 7/8 × 29 7/8 ''.

    Richard Wentworth

    Nogueras Blanchard | Madrid
    Doctor Fourquet 4
    September 12–November 9, 2019

    Long before artists had Instagram, Richard Wentworth began documenting moments of accidental sculpture encountered on city streets, ultimately collecting them in his ongoing photo series “Making Do and Getting By.Banal yet uncanny, those abandoned household objects, tangles of construction debris, and DIY patch jobs described a kind of assemblage motivated not by taste, but by something more practical and desperate. The sculptures in “Lecciones Aprendidas” (Lessons Learned), Wentworth’s current show at Nogueras Blanchard, aim to emulate this provisional quality.

    Writing History (all works cited, 2019) is composed of a feeble sawhorse turned on its side to rest upon a few stacked bricks, its thin metal joints straining under the weight of a thick roll of galvanized chicken wire. Other works hang high to be viewed from below, lending them an acute sense of precariousness. In An abrupt history of distribution, a cherry-red gas canister dangling from a desktop paper organizer first evokes one of Wile E. Coyote’s ACME bombs in mid-drop, until a cheerful graphic on its opposite side reveals that it contains only helium. In Echo Chamber, a paperback copy of Harold Nicolson’s Why Britain is at War appears encased inside a glass pitcher hanging from a steel rod near the ceiling. Written in 1939, the book was a polemical treatise in favor of Britain’s entry into World War II, but here the author’s reasoning is kept out of reach, and the question of “At war with whom?” is left to linger .  

    Wentworth has taught art since the early 1970s, and his approach as artist-teacher is palpable throughout “Lecciones Aprendidas.” Accomplishing much with only a little, each piece doubles as a sharp object lesson on some sculptural principle: weight, tension, balance, interior, density. Seen now in the twilight of Brexit, the show also reads as an allegory for Wentworth’s own Englishness as something porous, prone to scattered bits of influence, partial translations, and dumb luck.

  • View of “Christe o chapa,” 2019.

    View of “Christe o chapa,” 2019.

    Jacobo Castellano

    F2 Gallery
    Doctor Fourquet 28
    September 12–November 8, 2019

    Over the past couple of years, sculptor Jacobo Castellano has made a compelling motif out of the torno, an enclosed revolving door or window found in Spanish and Latin American cloistered convents that is used to transfer goods, missives, and people through the sacred and profane realms. Based on the idea of this bygone contraption, which is as much a threshold between public and private as between secular and holy, Castellano has built a static and corpulent piece that appears to float on a carved wooden base with golden reflections at the bottom edge. From TORNO, 2019, hang worn tapestries in earthy green and brown tones. Nearby, two enclenque sculptures dialogue with a formidable torno, all three forms likely familiar to any Andalusian child. In the first sculpture, PERSONAJE 3 (CHARACTER 3), 2019, a jagged wooden spire leans on a skinny stick for support. The second piece, PERSONAJE, 2017, is built as a saltire. The work faces the visitor, blocking their path.

    In lieu of a press release, the gallery has provided a dossier of ten photographs from Castellano’s personal collection. The images (of a room with balloons, a dilapidated projection room, a torno, some junk) emphasize the influence of “chance encounters” on Castellano’s work (though, that could be said of almost any artist). The scale decreases in the back room, whose sculptures bear little relation to the pieces in the main gallery. Despite its inelegant layout, the show’s overwhelming aesthetic appeal and the peculiarity of its details—two sewn broken buttons in PERSONAJE 3, for instance—make it unforgettable.

    Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.