New York

Robert Gordon

Bykert Gallery downtown

Robert Gordon also appropriates some of the extraneous objects which this nation produces. These objects share a single factor: light. Light as a pure, immaterial phenomenon, light as it is reflected by or passes through various materials, light at its most mundane, as it is produced by assorted lamps, bulbs, and fixtures. The exhibition consists of six pieces, arrangements of various kinds of objects and forms, sometimes quite casually stacked together. Initially, it all comes across as masses of raw plastic color and gaudy light, chaotic and tasteless. It takes little time for the structuring, the logic of Gordon’s arrangements, to become apparent.

In one piece, five clear acrylic forms, one a large octagon, are grouped around a smaller lighted rectangle of opaque colored plexiglass. A nearby mirror further increases the transparency and flatness of this particular combination. In another piece, four wooden cubes each contain some kind of light fixture or reflective material, and are combined with two empty cubes which, due to their mirror finish, have both their own “light” and the illusion of being closed. A related piece uses mostly plexiglass cubes in various bright colors; opaque cubes are open on one side, translucent cubes are closed. These pieces reveal the ways in which materials are or are not changed by light, the way in which volumes blend together or remain distinct, are open or closed. At the same time, the flashiness of some of Gordon’s objects, our consciousness of their sources and connotations, gives this visuality a harsh edge. The pieces combine aspects of, say, Flavin and Bell, and also comment on their purity. They are beautiful; they are pictorially and spatially complicated and ambiguous; but they are also rather nonchalant, stark, and skeptical.

The other three pieces in the exhibition stress the sources of light as much as its effect, and seem less purely perceptual and abstract. One simply consists of some 20 globe lamps, plain unlighted globes and pole lamps, grouped together on the floor. The globes vary in size, shape and material. The piece seems to be a compendium of kinds of spheres, light bulbs and lamps, several of which are quite ugly. Another piece consists of an orange tent containing a piece of equipment which projects moving, cloudlike spots of light onto the wall in front of it, becoming the source for its own “open skies.” Its Magrittean humor is direct but also obvious and literary in a way that none of the other work is.

For the largest, most recent work, Gordon used 70 fixtures, a Lamston’s moderne version of the Tiffany lamp (white plastic base with variously colored shades, of translucent or marbleized plastic, a real find). These were placed in five close rows of 14 each on a high table. The accumulations of the hemispherical shades formed a continuous multicolored surface at eye level. This piece and the first three discussed seemed most successful. In them, the polarity between the commercial, functional banality of the individual objects and their complex visual combination is most extreme and interesting. Another polarity is that while Gordon’s manipulation of material is nominal, the assertion, through that material, of his personal, formal sensibility is not.

Roberta Smith