Critics’ Picks

Rose Nolan, Big Words (Not Mine) – Transcend the poverty of partial vision (floor version), 2021, 100% New Zealand wool rug, aluminum composite mirrored panels, wooden stools, carpet 16 1/2 x 32 3/4'; mirrored panels 40 x 4'. Photo: Christian Capurro. 

Rose Nolan, Big Words (Not Mine) – Transcend the poverty of partial vision (floor version), 2021, 100% New Zealand wool rug, aluminum composite mirrored panels, wooden stools, carpet 16 1/2 x 32 3/4'; mirrored panels 40 x 4'. Photo: Christian Capurro. 

Melbourne

Rose Nolan

Anna Schwartz Gallery
185 Flinders Lane
November 6–December 18, 2021

In her 1977 book Passages of Modern Sculpture, Rosalind Krauss discusses Umberto Boccioni’s Development of a Bottle in Space, 1913, a sculpture that reveals itself to represent a bottle, dish, and glass only after the viewer has moved around it, observing the work from several vantage points. Big Words (Not Mine)–Transcend the poverty of partial vision (floor version), 2021—the title of the large installation anchoring Rose Nolan’s exhibition “Parlour Games”—openly quotes from Krauss’s text. In doing so, the Australian artist plays into the tension between the partial and complete image, as conceptualized by Krauss in her analysis of Boccioni’s sculpture.

Installed on the floor against a mirrored wall of the gallery is Big Words (Not Mine) . . ., a large semicircular red carpet with white capitalized letters whose illegibility is exacerbated by their scale. Five aluminum composite mirrored panels line the adjacent wall, creating the illusion that the carpet is a full circle. When glimpsed in the mirrored panels, the text is reversed and suddenly becomes legible: “TRANSCEND THE POVERTY OF PARTIAL VISION” is now so clear you may question how you ever missed it.

The revelation of Nolan’s installation is quietly generous. In the process of deciphering the text, the viewer becomes a central actor within the work; they encircle the carpet, walk across its plush surface, and eventually find themselves at the center of the semicircle. The temptation, particularly given Nolan’s reference to Krauss, is to connect the installation with the tradition of American Minimalism and phenomenology. But the soft viscerality of Big Words (Not Mine . . . is at odds with much of the hard, cold sculpture that came out of Minimalism—even the viewer’s reflection in the mirrored panels is softened by the aluminum composite beneath. Rather than simply projecting you back onto yourself,  Nolan envelops you in her work.