New York

Barry Le Va

Bykert Gallery

As I walked around, looking at the lengths and square-points of wood that demarcate Barry Le Va’s work, I tried to piece together the visual clues, to draw a mental image congruent with its title. For, while on close examination, the wood markers themselves imply a systematic arrangement behind their at first random appearance, it is the title that provides the orientation, the information necessary to locate these points in an ordered space. Centerpoints and Lengths (Through Points of Tangency)—5 Areas in 2 Areas: Separated and Partially Included, Separated and Partially Excluded—(each area comprised of 5 circular areas tangent to and inscribed within each other). Yet, even given these “facts,” it is difficult to decipher where the implicit circles are. Perhaps one finds one circle, then imagines another, only to lose one’s mental hold on the first two in arriving at the third. Or perhaps one succeeds in defining all five of the circles in one of the two areas on the floor, only to have them erased from one’s mind as one tries to trace an area on the wall. After some time spent with these mental gymnastics, I became frustrated. I began to wonder whether it was possible to uncover the order behind the placement of markers, or whether this was even important. Was it enough just to sense the tension between a system obviously there and the elusiveness of its comprehension?

And so I talked to Le Va, He emphasized his interest in what happens in the process of deciphering the information, the trial-and-error progression to discovery. Not exactly verification. Unlike Sol LeWitt, Le Va does not give a precise verbal description in his titles—just enough data to get one started. More like a detective story, where the piece unfolds as one follows, interpreting the clues until finally a climax is reached. And yet the denouement remains unstable. Even after looking at Le Va’s drawings of his plan, I couldn’t hold the configurations in my mind while looking at the piece. Visualization was still elusive. Part of this comes from the complexity (inconsistency) of Le Va’s own location process. There is always a choice as to which side of the circle will become the point of tangency for the next inscribed area. Furthermore the centerpoints (and sometimes the tangent lengths) for the “circles” on the wall are projected onto the floor and become physically present only inside the areas describing the floor. One has to be doubly in tune with Le Va’s thinking to solve this mystery. All of which leaves me with questions. I wonder at what point the information seems too ambiguous so that the viewer just accepts the possibility of a reason for the locations without being involved enough to want to discern it. And, if one does become engaged in the search, what more does one learn? Is the experience of solving an intellectual puzzle enough to sustain the work?

Susan Heinemann