New York

Roelof Louw

392 West Broadway

The difficulty I find in looking at Roelof Louw’s recent work is that it’s too easy just to read the relations between the elements, coming up with a logic for the construction, and to feel that one has therefore “solved” the piece, understood. For example, three upright sheets of steel A, B, C stand, spaced apart, like the points of a triangle. C denotes full size. A appears considerably lower in height, but by mentally adding on the two segments lying on the floor in front of A one arrives at an equal size. Similarly, one combines the fractions of B in one’s head. Having performed this operation, reconstructing the original wholes, what then? It seems too academic, like reciting arithmetic tables—I want to go further. According to Louw, one should focus on the physical labor implied in the displacement of the segments from their source and, in this way, extend the relations within the piece outside to one’s own situation. In other words, by concentrating on the moving of the segments, sensed as heavy, the body effort theoretically assumes tangibility and thus the arrangement of the piece refers one to the concrete (“in the world”) action of its making. But wait a minute. Isn’t this just contrived speculation, another mental exercise? For in assigning a phenomenological metaphor to this piece, one ignores one’s actual engagement with the work (a contradiction) and hypothesizes an interpretation to give it intellectual clout. I come back to my opening statement. The work situates itself within such a known art-object structure. One extrapolates to find ideas; they are not sensed in one’s experience. And I search for something more to jolt my assumptions, to force me outside the piece’s smug self-containment.

Susan Heinemann