New York

Robert Rohm

O.K. Harris Gallery

The show was made of varied materials and elements: lumber, sandbags, steel reinforcing rods, stained rope, and hook lamps like the ones mechanics use. The pieces were experienced in terms of surface, weight, rigidity versus flexibility, and illumination.

One had to enter the gallery by walking up a ramp of loose planks onto a plywood platform raised about two feet off the floor and running along a wall to the nearest corner. Another ramp brought one to the gallery floor. The gallery was lighted only by the hook lamps, which were part of three of the pieces, and by a little daylight leaking from the shaded windows. Two hook lamps were placed under the platform entrance, one at either end of a long skeletal frame of reinforcing rods. Although the platform was visibly supported by a pair of low sawhorses, the steel grid frame seemed to be holding open the space underneath for examination, a space that was empty. The disclosure of emptiness, arranged in materially aggressive terms, and the failure of this disclosure to reveal anything more real than the means of disclosing, may have been the threads that made the show cohere.

The show had a Surrealist overtone to it what with the darkened room, the emphasis on peeling away the surfaces of things, and the fact that the whole ensemble was built in such scale as to make one’s body feel smaller when descending from the entry platform to the gallery floor. But the Surrealistic aspect seemed to wear off the more one spent time with the show; a kind of backstage feeling developed, as though one were seeing the gallery between shows.

One had to enter the gallery by walking up a ramp of loose planks onto a plywood platform raised about two feet off the floor and running along a wall to the nearest corner. Another ramp brought one to the gallery floor. The gallery was lighted only by the hook lamps, which were part of three of the pieces, and by a little daylight leaking from the shaded windows. Two hook lamps were placed under the platform entrance, one at either end of a long skeletal frame of reinforcing rods. Although the platform was visibly supported by a pair of low sawhorses, the steel grid frame seemed to be holding open the space underneath for examination, a space that was empty. The disclosure of emptiness, arranged in materially aggressive terms, and the failure of this disclosure to reveal anything more real than the means of disclosing, may have been the threads that made the’ show cohere.

The show had a Surrealist overtone to it what with the darkened room, the emphasis on peeling away the surfaces of things, and the fact that the whole ensemble was built in such scale as to make one’s body feel smaller when descending from the entry platform to the gallery floor. But the Surrealistic aspect seemed to wear off the more one spent time with the show; a kind of backstage feeling developed, as though one were seeing the gallery between shows.

I think this show amounted to a sort of belated attack on abstraction, as if abstraction is seen as depending upon the discontinuity between picture space and gallery space. What the ensemble asserted was that the gallery space is one of materiality and not of illusion, and that it is a theater space insofar as it contains illusions (e.g. pictures). Rohm seems to be interested in combating the notion that art made for a specific space is thereby theatrical; his new work suggests that “theatricality” is descriptive of the exhibition convention itself rather than of the work exhibited.

Kenneth Baker