Critics’ Picks

Matthew McCaslin, Inside Out, 2009, aluminum studs, fluorescent-light fixtures, fluorescent bulbs, electric hardware, 12 x 10 x 20'.

Matthew McCaslin, Inside Out, 2009, aluminum studs, fluorescent-light fixtures, fluorescent bulbs, electric hardware, 12 x 10 x 20'.

New York

Matthew McCaslin

Sandra Gering Inc
14 East 63rd Street
April 23–June 6, 2009

In Bite the Bullet and I’m Late (all works 2009), the two sculpturally embellished photographs that bookend this exhibition, Matthew McCaslin fixes his gaze on the stars but does so with a distinctly earthbound humor that might have appealed to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams. Both shots depict pink-tinged nebulae swirling in the depths of space but leaven their subject’s extraterrestrial grandeur with, respectively, gobbets of orange-pink chewing gum (arranged in a neat grid) and several embedded pairs of functioning clock hands. The droll pairings are typical of Brooklyn-based McCaslin’s wry sensibility and fit neatly into a show that buzzes with energy both elemental and man-made.

In fact, the photos are the only works here that don’t actually emit light. Electric Life Drawing incorporates not only a mesmerizing slo-mo video of lightning strikes but also a bank of ultraviolet tubes, bathing the viewer in a doubly eerie glow. David Smith and the paired He or She and She or He also get playful mileage from the sculptural qualities of electric fixtures and fittings, recasting sockets, bulbs, and conduits as elements of a formal language that hovers between the organic and the mechanical, the familiarly utilitarian and the utterly abstract. Ironically, the show’s only slight misstep is also its physical centerpiece. Inside Out, a room-size cage of aluminum studs illuminated from within by four white fluorescents, lacks the concision that McCaslin achieves elsewhere. But while the artist’s architectural sensibility is arguably underdeveloped, he remains a consummate electrician.