New York

Tony Delap and Gerald Laing

Elkon Gallery and Feigen Gallery

Although Tony Delap and Gerald Laing are very different artists I think their exhibitions shared a common failing: the materials they use obtrude and instead of serving the artist simply extinguish whatever expressiveness is intended. (DeLap’s free-standing constructs are made from aluminum, wood, fiberglass and plexiglass and Laing’s wall-constructs from formica, painted aluminum and chromed brass.) Even this isn’t getting to the heart of what is wrong because I felt that behind the artists’ insistence on using materials pretty much unaltered, lies the conviction that the particular qualities of each material will somehow render the free-standing or wall-hanging states of these objects self evident and meaningful. DeLap’s exhibition consisted of several shallow box-like objects, square in shape, with the four corners planed off and several protractor shaped objects. In almost all cases, the outer frame of the object was separated from the solid interior by a narrow strip of plexiglass, thus giving the effect that the interior was floating. Each object was sealed off, front and back by a sheet of plexiglass and, looking at them, it was impossible not to feel that a single intellectual notion about the enclosure of space was being demonstrated rather than explored. One felt too, that the choice of materials, the particular form of the objects, their repetition and their free standing state, were all the result of a generalized idea of how best to get this notion across. One had the feeling that for a different notion there would be a different set of objects which, though their look might change radically, would not express anything different. In other words, the kind of consideration which goes into these objects comes as near to being functional consideration as is possible—the difficulty is that although one can conjecture about the idea which shaped the objects, they themselves do not express the idea, they carry it inertly; nor are they particularly expressive in themselves.

This is also, I think, partly true of Laing’s exhibition. Laing uses panels of formica over which he places thin cut-out aluminum and chromed brass shapes. The formica panels form either a continuous surface, or else are separated, with the cutout shapes nevertheless implying a continuity of surface. In one case Laing fits a formica “triptych” to the specific angles of one of the gallery walls; thus two of the panels have right angle bends. A play with “real” and illusory perspective is at work throughout Laing’s wall pieces but, as with DeLap’s exhibition, one has more the feeling of an idea demonstrated than of anything expressed. There is no compelling reason why these particular materials should be used to demonstrate the idea, nor does there seem to be a compelling formal reason why a number of small models for the larger pieces should ever have been made larger. In fact the only difference is the absolute difference of size; the feel to the works, large or small, is virtually identical.

Jane Harrison Cone