New York

Rosemarie Castoro

Tibor de Nagy Gallery

The desire to command three-dimensional space is not enough to do it, nor is mere energy sufficient to create dynamic drawings, nor does making drawings eight feet high on curved screens automatically turn them into sculpture. There are too many assumptions in the works of Rosemarie Castoro that only rarely become operational. Her freestanding “walls” claim space but actually occupy it, according to their premises, in only one case.

The pieces in her show at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery are constructed either of hinged masonite panels supported by a grid of two by twos, or of hollow-core doors. Because the works are freestanding, it is possible to walk around them. The masonite pieces are sculpturally neutral in the rear. The backs of the doors, painted gray, do have potential as three-dimensional presences, but it is unexploited. It is even difficult to walk behind the pieces because they have been pushed too close to the walls of the gallery—placed unequivocally to demand attention only from the front. The viewer is forced physically to consider them as no more than oversized drawings.

Their surfaces are marked in aggressive strokes, heavy with nervous energy. They are built up of a thick layer of gesso and modeling paste,then indented by a coarse-bristled brush, probably a wallpaper brush. The dry gesso is gone over with a graphite stick, following the established texture to some extent but varying it enough to give the sense of an overdrawing. Castoro also used an eraser in some areas to smear and blend the graphite, softening the contrast.. In some pieces, the strokes are choppy and straight, in others they are curved to reflect and accentuate the actual curve of the screens. Sometimes the drawings explicitly cancel the screens’ shapes by not submitting to changes in the direction of their curves.

These works are not fully successful as drawings. Although their texture changes from piece to piece, the overall feeling is energetically monotonous. They also defeat themselves as sculpture because their surfaces deny the corporeality of their supports. In all but one three-panel piece, they are passive, two-dimensional drawings and nothing more. They relate by contiguity alone to their structure. In the triptych, the drawing is dense enough, the texture brisk and deep enough to acquire physical weight beyond illusionistic pattern. This surface has three-dimensional impact and therefore integrates meaningfully with its shape. The simple three-panel arrangement counts spatially as well. Its proportions, the angles of the panels to each other, the symmetry make it stand firmly in its own space.

Kasha Linville