new-york

John Willenbecher

A. M. Sachs Gallery

A cenotaph is a “sepulchral monument erected in memory of a deceased person who is buried elsewhere” (Random House Dictionary). Etienne-Louis Boullee, a rather successful 18th-century architect, imagined such works on a megalomaniac scale, as conceived in large, pedagogical ink and wash drawings. Their forbidding structural simplicity is zoned by unbroken, transparent shadows that merge with the star-powdered heavens. John Willenbecher would have many of his arched plaster constructions, painted over with gray acrylic, and bottom shelved in wood—would have them be called cenotaphs for Boullée. As a show it is, I suppose, an homage to the French romantic who saluted the honor of a dead hero like Newton with the fantasy of a planetarium that would have dwarfed Karnak. But the reference is entirely poetic, not scholarly, and the celestial reaches are miniaturized, as if they were background

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