Critics’ Picks

View of “Woodwork,” 2004.

New York

“Woodwork”

Anthony Grant, Inc.
37 West 57th Street
June 9–August 27, 2004

If this show is any indication, more artists should work in wood. The possibilities—from rough-hewn rusticity to polished perfection, a kind of nature/culture dialectic contained in a singular material—were known to the modernists; just look at the Brancusi show at the Guggenheim. Here, contemporary artists take a crack at carpentry, with results as varied as Richard Artschwager’s wonderful confessional constructed out of a plywood shipping crate; Lars Fisk’s Tree Ball, 1998, an uncanny sphere of bark-covered wood; and Matt Johnson’s two-by-four bent into an impossible shape that conjures classic Minimalist sculpture. Los Carpinteros, Paloma Vargas Weisz, Hadi Tabatabai, and Georg Baselitz also weigh in with some impressive craftsmanship. Wood, it seems, engenders a particularly imaginative thoughtfulness with regard to form and composition—as evidenced, for example, in Claes Oldenburg’s Landscape with Lighthouse (Provincetown), 1960, assembled like Synthetic Cubist collage out of bits of wood that became detached from other objects and lost before being found by the artist.