New York

Gary Kuehn

This segue is invidious; but insofar as both Urry and Gary Kuehn are sculptors committed to examining the contrast between hard and soft with the same piece, the lead-in is apposite. Kuehn, punching thirty but hardly unknown, is associated with the- Rutgers group from which Keith Sonnier and Robert Morris have emerged. Attracted by the problem of soft-to-hard in sculpture over several years, the earlier work indicated that Kuehn had been trapped by certain a priori conclusions. This scale of malleability had been undermined by the application of a literary idea from the outside. But, even if the earlier fiberglass pieces were sabotaged by an inescapable similarity to ripe cheese melting, they were, in the face of geometric Minimalism, an heroic accomplishment à rebours. In the present work, the soft-hard comparison grows naturally, operatively, functionally out of the demands necessitated by the material—fiberglass mostly, over cores of foam rubber. Coloristically, the pieces are blond and pinkish, with a white, dull sheen on them that recalls the early encaustics of Jasper Johns. In terms of the color and a new fundamentalism, Kuehn, in this his most mature exhibition, moves into a central anti-Minimalist position.

Among the direct examinations of form are a slipping and buckling foam rubber panel which limps against a wall; wooden horses which barely manage to support a dipping panel stretched across them; fastened G-clamps which retain stainless steel bands tightly against rusted cooper’s hoops. Incidentally, I don’t believe that Kuehn’s objects are all actually made the way they appear to have been; only, as they give a convincing demonstration of certain structural premises, I am willing to accept them at face value. There are pieces which strain my credulity in an arch way and in that archness is still found certain Surrealist affiliations. I am put off by fat nuts and bolts screwing down hard into unresistant foam rubber; by latex mattresses which bend in on themselves and which are held by heavily threaded pipes or tied with thick baling wire (in such connections John Chamberlain’s foam rubber sculptures must also be remembered). Such experiments indicate a residue of preciosity which still threatens to usurp the potent Constructivist options in which Kuehn now appears to be placing confidence.

Robert Pincus-Witten