New York

Grace Bakst Wapner

55 Mercer Gallery

A more theatrical involvement with the body in space is evident in Grace Bakst Wapner’s “barriers and passageways.” In the more dramatic work, four separate rows of elegantly colored satin cords loop from ceiling to floor in an even, rhythmical pattern. Each row consists of two layers of overlapping U-shapes in alternating wavelike formation. Because there is ample space for passage between the loops and the gallery wall, as well as between the rows themselves, one is not tempted to actually enter the piece. Yet as one walks around the work, various possible pathways through the forest of verticals suggest themselves. The configuration itself seems to change, although it is really one’s body’s relative position which moves in time and space, offering different perceptual perspectives. However, the experiential impact of the work is tamed by the refined beauty of the materials, a “civilizing quality” cited by the artist in a press release. The preciousness of the satin and the richness of the purple, magenta, royal blue and green gold colors stress the associative decorativeness of the piece and, thus, redirect one’s attention to an appreciation of tasteful design.

Similarly, in the other work on display, the prettiness of the gold fabric covering the twisted and knotted cords tautly stretched from floor to ceiling conflicts with a reading of the material lines as dividers of space. Situated in opposite corners of the room, the work is split into two disparate halves by the intervening loop piece. Each half contains alternating rows of the vertical cords, spaced so as to allow one to meander in between the boundaries. Again one is forced to choose. Either one focuses on the piece’s pictorial aspects, on the visual properties of the shimmering gold material, or one submits to the sculptural experience of the cords as restrictions on one’s body’s potential movement through space. The two views do not coincide.

Susan Heinemann