New York

Jud Fine

Jud Fine’s recent sculptures work with bamboo poles, and tubes in analogy with bamboo poles. Fine seems concerned with differences between them when assembled, or only grouped into configurations, and when they only serve by standing and waiting. The drawings are mainly studies for the poles, although there are also alarmingly compulsive exercises in building up a palimpsest of written and overwritten text; both kinds make every effort not to please. Yet, that’s what they end up doing.

The major sculpture here, Analogy, consists of an array of the bamboo and bamboo-shaped poles, together with a welded metal rack. The poles are decorated or constructed with an eye to the stylistic features of other contemporary artists’ work—from Olitski to Westermann to a fetishistic post-Minimal effort consisting of a translucent fiberglass pole with two pockets of urine sealed in.

Fine’s problem may be that he tries to he lightweight in form and “heavy” in content. The meaning is too pat for the insinuating frankness of format. The purely sculptural aspect has promise: the idea of some poles just resting with potential esthetic energy against the wall while others are displayed in the limelight of esthetic encounter on the rack. The inorganic coolness of the rack vs. the organic irregularity and idiosyncrasy of the poles is fresh.

A large, mural-sized drawing called Mix Meta(simi)phor Switch/Hitter consists of a long wavering line from which hangs an overlapping train of long, narrow, tapelike forms. In the center, toward the bottom, a photograph of a sculpture by Fine is mounted, a construction consisting of draped screening and wooden slats. The drawing is based on a shadow of the sculpture (mounted differently, with the slats hanging down from the top, where the photo shows them lying at the bottom). The inclusion of the photograph seems redundant, as if Duchamp had included a photo of his real Hat Rack along with its shadow in the painting Tu m’—in order to make sure we got the point. It also seems contrived, as though without it the drawing would be too undesirably abstract and not odd enough. But if a drawing can’t stand—lean?—on its own, then why should the inclusion of a photo of the motif help it? Because the original motif is hip? In another work, there is a more significant relation between actual leaning colored poles and a color photograph of them as previously assembled into an equilaterally triangular wall sculpture. There is a poignant sense of the poles having been mustered out of artistic service and returned to some former, less qualified but also less remarkable state.

My disappointment comes from a conviction that Fine’s pole idea does have real sculptural possibilities. As long as they have to do with the linear coding of what has tiresomely come to be called artistic “information,” they could perhaps deal more directly with that notion, maybe even with overtones of genetic coding. Or they could develop a Runic-linguistic sense of additive and grammatical messages (an attempt to do this with typed bands of text fails because real words seem out of place and become a generalized and wholly visual passage, like cross-hatching). As they now stand, they don’t develop much at all, but seem as abandoned as some clever but transient idea—mock-ups for a gimmick.

Joseph Masheck