Critics’ Picks

View of “Pam Lins: she swipes shallow space by the slide drawer,” 2018.

New York

Pam Lins

Rachel Uffner Gallery
170 Suffolk Street
March 4 - April 22

A cycloramic print of slide drawers, of the kind used by predigital professors of art history, wraps around Pam Lins’s exhibition here. The labels have been replaced by a spectrum of monochrome rectangles. It’s as if art’s timeline, after one too many conflicting narratives, has now been reorganized by color. Inside this is a circle of cheerful blond-wood stools with footrests that match the hues of the slide drawers. On each stool sits a pointed ceramic block. In the center, a blue, rectilinear metal tree, swipe puddle tree (all works 2018), sprouts fruit-size aluminum forms, each incised with a mark.

In contrast with much recent work in ceramics, Lins’s approach to the medium is mercifully adult. She questions where it lies historically, or if its roots in craft mean it defies categorization altogether. Is clay only at home in new systems, such as color-coded slide drawers and trees of marks? The blocks are the most compelling elements of this installation.

Upon entering the gallery, one can only see the lovely, dun faces of the Matterhorn-shaped blocks. Each face contains a fragment of a classical relief sculpture. The images mostly depict hands—holding, gesturing, or reaching—as in she swipes shallow space by the slide drawer (joining), in which two hands overlap in what looks like a missed handshake. When one walks around the circle, the decorative, patterned backsides of the forms reveal themselves. It forces a jump in time and suggests that formalism has always been waiting for us: on the backs of stone reliefs and paintings, atop empty pedestals stacked in museum storage rooms, and inside tiny cardboard slide frames locked away in drawers, their contents invisibly repeating antique models of art history.