Critics’ Picks

Ziggurat, 2006.

Ziggurat, 2006.

New York

Sara VanDerBeek

D'Amelio Gallery
525 West 22nd Street
September 8–October 14, 2006

Sara VanDerBeek’s first solo exhibition astutely evokes the uncanny in photographs of sculptural assemblages and collages, capturing the creepy aura of the constructed objects within two dimensions. Here, the repressed returns via enigmatic twists and turns: Alexander Calder, Joseph Cornell, and Hannah Höch spring to mind, and mementos—which seem to have a deeply personal meaning and look recondite when combined with wire, thread, and ribbons—abound. In One of Only Two, 2006, a collaged page from the Illustrated London News is set against a black background, like a trapped specimen. VanDerBeek has blocked much of the page’s contents with pieces of fabric and a postcard of Malevich’s Dynamic Suprematism, leaving uncovered images of fragmented sculptures from the Parthenon. The historical referents in this work, and throughout the show, harbor a troublesome kind of beauty that reveals mystical connections the longer one gazes at them. Ziggurat, 2006, pictures a mobile of spiritually charged images and reflective, amuletlike objects that produces a similarly dreamlike effect. VanDerBeek’s photographs stand out against the recent wave of metaphysical art, however, as the clever pairing of images (from ancient civilization to pop culture) and the darker, at times deathly, themes approach more resonant territory. The frictions between the strange and the familiar, in their formal and conceptual sophistication, move the work beyond mere quotation of historical sources, shedding new light on a spellbinding phenomenon.