Critics’ Picks

Win McCarthy, January ’17 calendar (Der Fuß des Künstlers), 2017, foamcore, C-prints, paper, stones, tape, pencil, pins, 37 x 40 x 2".


Win McCarthy

Keithstrasse 12
April 22–June 24

The top of the checklist reads “FOR ASSEMBLY,” as if to suggest that this exhibition of new works by American artist Win McCarthy is a type of instruction manual. McCarthy, like a TV handyman, lays out the materials: a floor display of wooden sticks, a blown-glass mask, a large yellow toy crane, and a collage juxtaposing a photograph of young people with another of a full-size crane, collectively titled “Staging area” (all works 2017). So, what are we assembling?

Two collages on the wall, January ’17 calendar (Der Fuß des Künstlers) and March ’17 calendar (bits & pieces), would seem to indicate something as elusive as time or a life. January is dominated by a large photograph of the artist’s foot covering several pencil-drawn squares on a yellowed board surface, while others neatly contain figurations of small stones, pictures of friends, and cities. In March, objects and images flank the empty grid, as if still deciding how to arrange themselves for the month, which is already past, implying that boxes were always inadequate hosts for a pile of being anyway. Here, time is a volatile substance, layered, subjective, and intensely unfit for formal organization.

Yet in these works McCarthy gives perfect form to that impossible task precisely by failing to adhere to his purported templates, be they calendars or the shapes of people. Mr. Reticence, a stuffed fabric torso with a blown-glass mask for a face and a single pink shoelace for hair, becomes the mascot for a whole team of similarly botched and taciturn characters. Eerie as well as silly in their fragility, these sculptures remind us that being unclear, or illegible, is not the same as being nothing, just as an empty schedule is not an index of lost time.