New York

Laurace James

Laurace James continues to work with wood, ropes, pulleys, rocks, and in her show at A.I.R., bricks as well. In a sense, two of the three works in her show are one work by being isolated sections of a “separated diptych.” Both of the works of the diptych are essentially the same: One brick and a bundle of three bricks are suspended at the opposite ends of a rope which is itself suspended by a hinged set of vertical planks against the wall and a complex of pulleys. The bricks attain a suspended balance in just about any position but the most extreme ones, in which case the bundle of three bricks crashes down to the gallery floor. (A child on roller-skates seemed nerve-rackingly bent on putting these extreme positions to repeated empirical tests.) James’ other large work was more complicated but amounted to generally the same thing. She placed 2 x 4s horizontally, one each, high up on two adjacent walls of a corner, and a third on the floor at a distance from either wall; between these 2 x 4s, bundles of large sawed-off branches were suspended off the floor by a network of ropes and pulleys. This larger work was also color-coded; ropes bundling branches were brown and ropes suspending the bundles were yellow as were the 2 x 4s, but each in a different way. That is, one was all yellow, one partly yellow, and one unpainted while the area of wall surrounding it was painted.

Through the causal connection of the various elements of these works, the primary experience of the work seems to be of hypothesizing the nature of those connections, that is, predicting the effect on one element if the position of another is changed. But James evidently is also concerned with presenting situations in which several forms of balance are possible; any number of positions within the extremes are possible positions in which the work is balanced; this amounts to a literal usage of the empty critical metaphor “being balanced” and shows what “being balanced” literally means, and that a multitude of balances are possible in any given work. In these terms, even the extreme positions, when the bricks have crashed to the floor, present their own form of balance. This may be a stretched reading of James’ intentions, but her three small drawings also in the show give the reading some support. These drawings consist of straight and right-angled lines in different colors, none of which cross over or through another, and none of which are on the same horizontal-vertical axis. All three drawings are hung cock-eyed on the wall and seem to raise the question: What would it mean to say these drawings are “balanced” or “not balanced”? Though the drawings are literally hanging askew, if a certain kind of balance had not been achieved, they wouldn’t be hanging at all. If this sort of reading is relevant to James’ intentions, the drawings seem to me to be more effective, for the problem I have in her other work is getting beyond all the ropes, pulleys, stones, and logs, the whole materials/gravity thing which seems to have been played out.

––Bruce Boice