New York

Group Show

John Weber Gallery

The group of artists forming the group show at Weber also showed as a group there last winter, but without Hans Haacke.

Nancy Holt’s work Locator With Spotlight and Sunlight was much simpler than what is necessary to describe it would indicate. A sharp-focused spotlight is aimed at a wall at an angle forming an oval of light on the wall. At the same angle to the wall, but on the opposite side, is a similarly shaped oval of daylight formed by an oval cut in a piece of board covering the window. Between these two ovals of light, a “T”-shaped steel pipe stands on the floor positioned in such a way that to look through the horizontal section of the “T” from either end is to see the interior contour of the pipe line up perfectly with the contour of either oval of light. It is difficult not to read the ovals of light and the “locator” causally; that is, the oval of light on the wall seems projected from the oval of the window through the “T”-shaped locator pipe. And it is difficult not to read the relation as a causal one even in the face of the evidence; one sees the spotlight shining on the wall and reads the oval of light as being projected through the locator despite the obvious facts. When the mental construction of the situation successfully shifts away from the causal reading, the steel locator pipe, which is apparently and physically at the center of the work, becomes almost ludicrous. For outside of the causal reading, the locator pipe, while looking rather important, does absolutely nothing. Without the causal reading, the locator is irrelevant except as an object physically between the two ovals; within the causal reading, the spotlight is irrelevant. In fact, within the causal reading, the spotlight is an unwanted fact which disturbs belief in the causal reading. In this kind of reading, Holt’s work does not question perception, but rather it questions the constructions we put on perception, and our clinging to those constructions even in the face of confuting evidence. However, an altogether different and simpler reading of Holt’s work is both possible and probably closer to Holt’s intention. This reading amounts to considering Holt’s piece as being closer to Dibbets’ perspective corrections, i.e. what is plainly an oval on the wall and another oval hole in the board covering the window is also a perfect circle when seen from a certain perspective, in this case, when seen through the locator pipe. This reading doesn’t necessarily force an abandonment of the conclusions drawn from the first reading, but it obviously places a greater emphasis on perceptual questions.

Another initially misleading work was Brenda Miller’s Subtrahend in which 6400 strands of sisal twine, varying in length from one to 40 inches, were nailed onto the wall at each point of intersection in an 80'' square grid. The general appearance of the piece was that of a white shag rug of some sort fixed to the wall, suggesting crafts more than art. A diagram with the piece shows the mass of sisal strands to be the product of a simple rigorous system based on numbering the grid intersections one through 40 counting up and down. Each number on the diagram determines the length of the sisal strand that is nailed into the corresponding intersection in the work. The interest in Miller’s work, like aspects of LeWitt’s drawings, seems to be in the bizarre results yielded by a simple set of rules.

Mary Obering showed 10 Canvas Constructions on Brown Paper, a set of multicolored variations based on a triangular module, half of which appeared rather like earlier Robert Mangold configurations. Obering’s two large paintings consisted of shingled canvas rectangles of various colors on top of the canvas surface which is another solid color. In the paintings and 10 Canvas Constructions, each discrete piece of canvas has its own solid color, as if following some of Ellsworth Kelly’s principles. Obering’s paintings of last year looked somewhat like Kelly’s work in a very general sense, but the new paintings do not resemble Kelly’s work in any significant respect and seemed more interesting than the ten constructions; but it is difficult getting away from the decorativeness in both kinds of work.

Laurace James’ Foot Swing, like her work last winter, was comprised of ropes and pulleys suspending simple bundles of 2x4’s and what could be called small logs or large sticks. It was evident that to push or pull one bundle would involve changing the position of the others, implying notions of gravity, but also the evidence of a direct causal relation between the dangling elements of the work.

Hans Haacke was represented by his by now trademark questionaire about the art—political scene. The MoMA and Whitney were voted most likely to show works critical of the U.S. government, receiving 11.9% of the vote each, while the Guggenheim received only 7.6%, a statistic which must have been noted by the artist; however, the biggest winner was “none of museums listed” with a whopping 31%. But with the release of each depressing Harris or Gallup poll result, October is a bad time to be very receptive to Haacke’s poll.

Carl Andre showed new works, Cardinal Series, in which 3/8'' aluminum plates 12'' square are the units as in much of his earlier work. The aluminum plates are placed on the floor where it meets the wall and grouped in sets which can be counted one through 11, and potentially to infinity. The first set or “Cardinal,” as they are called, is one square plate on the floor, the second cardinal is two plates with the second plate butting the first at its edge farthest from the wall, the third cardinal has three plates in succession coming out from the wall, the fourth cardinal has four plates in a square cluster, and so on. Numbers which are divisible only by one or by themselves are butted end to end moving farther away from the wall as number increases; a number divisible by any other number is divided by that number so that the eighth cardinal has two rows of four plates and the ninth cardinal has three rows of three plates. In this work Andre seems to have moved away from purely physical situations and phenomenological experience toward an interest in the mental constructions placed on the experience of physical situations. Cardinal Series can be thought of in terms of fundamental mathematical concepts, but the focus seems to be less on division as an operation than on di vision as an ordering concept in the mental construction of a situation. If we can divide a number of similar things from a large unit to several smaller units, we do so. And these ordering concepts are a fundamental and generally unconscious use of mathematics in ordering experience. We grasp the three rows of three plates each as nine plates immediately, but we must count the single row of 11 plates one by one to know there are 11. In this light, Andre’s work seems more involved with taxonomy than mathematics.

Bruce Boice