Critics’ Picks

Sam Ekwurtzel, mooring bollard, partially drained (a), 2019, aluminum bollard, fused silica ceramic shell, extruded hollow core kiln shelf, 30 × 30 × 30".

Sam Ekwurtzel, mooring bollard, partially drained (a), 2019, aluminum bollard, fused silica ceramic shell, extruded hollow core kiln shelf, 30 × 30 × 30".

New York

Sam Ekwurtzel

Simone Subal Gallery
131 Bowery 2nd Floor
September 8–October 27, 2019

East River–adjacent ferry queens like myself, who take New York City’s commuter boats up and down the coastlines, will recognize the fat mooring bollards—posts that ships get tied to when docked—in Sam Ekwurtzel’s solo exhibition, “Renderings.” They stand like rigid sentinels here, but looks are deceiving, as what appears in the gallery are actually husks—or perhaps even ghosts—of the original bollards that were created through clever acts of destruction.

The artist has coated eight of these squat columns, made from aluminum, with layers of a white, high-temperature ceramic material that’s frequently used for making metal casting molds. Placing each bollard on an elegant, thin shelf—which looks like a plaything of Carl Andre’s—Ekwurtzel then fires them in a kiln at 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, liquefying the objects completely within their gleaming, white clay shells. The metal pools haphazardly onto the bases, like spilled paint. For instance, in mooring bollard, partially drained (a) (all works 2019), the gooey-looking, shiny aluminum flows mostly to one side of the shelf, without spilling over. And in window grate, partially drained, one of two pieces that are mounted to the wall, the bubbling metal oozes out of the hollow, ceramic bars, so that hard and soft, right angles and curved edges, are in distinct opposition: an experiment in chaos and control.

Ekwurtzel has found a threshold at which these seemingly permanent fixtures of the cityscape can be effectively neutered and made ephemeral, finding in their eradication new forms that are sensitively, sculpturally beautiful.