New York

Loren Madsen

MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

First I'll carp about the letter from Loren Madsen to The Museum of Modern Art management tacked on the wall for the Californian's “Projects” series show. This document might make us privy to the sculptor's thinking about the major piece here, a big leaning wall of bricks restrained from collapse by hundreds of tiny steel wires. Instead, the detailed exposition of how the thing should be installed ends up insisting on its nature as a feat of engineering. The museum translated Madsen's written cautions about people touching the wires into ropes and stanchions, so that the piece is cloistered in its own particular space and gravity, blocked off like the fragile illusion that it is.

It wasn't the idea of structural acrobatics apparent from walking around this sculpture that interested me. Instead it was two separate views. Seen head on, the wall of bricks is just an irregular shape. It doesn't evoke collapse. Nor can you tell from that angle just where the individual rows of wires that restrain the bricks are. They're simply a myriad, a visual field which is a graded haze. The other view I liked reveals the strange darkened place between the bricks and the museum wall, a space where the light doesn't fall. From here the uneven surface formed by the bricks glued together makes the wall look like it's really about to buckle.

A wooden piece in the smaller room was more clearly a whole thing that's dangerous to be around. No glue, no nails, no wires. Just the pressure of thin strips holding blocks arranged in step series up and away from the wall. There's a certain similarity here to Laddie John Dill's sculptures of panes of glass under stress from steel plates. But Madsen uses the whole room to make a sculpture that's struggling to push back the walls but instead scales steps. Given a good kick, this thing would explode as surely as a schoolkid’s bobbypin bomb.

Alan Moore