New York

Robert Huot

Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

In a catalog mailed out from the Paula Cooper Gallery, Robert Huot pictured a number of his architectural detailing projects which had been installed in the lofts and homes of various friends or collectors as well as in the gallery. These projects consist of, for instance: painting alternately glossy and matte white stripes on a section of an already white wall; running a molding strip along two corner lengths of a floor baseboard; attaching ten short I-beams to a ceiling projection, or otherwise altering some detail of the room, its surfaces, or environmental context. Still, these changes retain the look of belonging to that place or context, so that their presence might not be readily apparent to the uninstructed viewer.

In the gallery, Huot painted two walls of a room blue (listing the exact brand and serial number of the paint in his announcement); then he sanded the wood floor and coated it with polyurethane, and indicated that shadows were cast by the available lighting fixtures. As gesture, then, his art is literally backed up against the wall, demanding an architectural context, while calling attention to itself as the end product of processes traditionally considered to be work (or effects) of the most mundane sort. He uses these purely functional processes to service—and dress up—an already available space or setting. It seems to me that further implications of this kind of activity have been explored more intelligently and more incisively by the precedent of Carl Andre’s flattened tile-like arrangements of metal, bricks or panels. To the extent that Andre’s works establish themselves as sites or places of a more differentiated nature, yet criticizing an environment which cannot quite contain them in a conclusive way (as Associate Curator James Monte has suggested in his catalog introduction to a current sculpture show at the Whitney), Huot’s more dryly literal architectural remodeling feats seem rather anemic. Huot is not proposing conditions which we might experience as anything other than the rather episodic procedures he has used to alter a particular area temporarily. Though a nominal or rudimentary order is imposed on these conditions and procedures, there is only the slightest perceptual significance to be gleaned from it. Huot does not displace space, objects, or environmental factors as such, nor are his projects simply laid out as conceptual schemes, but those negative observations are not the sole basis for the disarmingly bland reaction one has to the work. The sensibility struck me as diddling and humorless, while formally there is a lack of authentic material to interest or affect with any degree of force.

Emily Wasserman