New York

Marilynn Gelfman-Pereira

O. K. Harris Gallery

Michael Singer’s work casually annotates nature’s random aspects; Marilynn Gelfman-Pereira transforms evidence of its structural regularity into a series of elegant, intentionally artificial constructions. Forked twigs, chosen for their similarity of size and angle, are judiciously pruned to uniform lengths and positioned in various configurations with the tips of the branches touching each other, thus producing rough imitations of geometric figures. These are then interlaced with miniature wire sculptures of a highly constructivist character.

Pereira has always worked on a small scale. Her previous pieces, formal constructions made entirely of wire, were rarely more than a foot high. Some included tiny figures, suggesting that they were models for larger works, but none was ever produced. Indeed, their delicacy confirms the propriety of their miniature scale. There is no such ambiguity in the present works: the sticks unequivocally declare their miniature status, and the fact that they are contained in plexiglas boxes underlines their “small-object” quality.

The sticks and wires, though radically different in character, complement each other in a variety of instructive ways. The virtuosity possible in the wire medium could show up the crudeness inherent in the sticks, but oddly enough, the sticks tend, if anything, to expose the preciosity of the more complex wire elements. Though one never quotes the other directly, the works are most coherent when the two parts are closely related—the wire ringing changes on the formal properties of the natural structure.

Anyone who has spent time searching futilely for the perfect slingshot stick will be delighted by the uniformity of these forked twigs which Pereira emphasizes in the symmetry of her inventive juxtapositions. It was surprising how few branches actually comprised each figure, and how many variations were possible within the relatively limited repertoire of twig shapes. In fact, the branch structures are ultimately more interesting than the wire elements, possibly because we have the feeling we’ve seen the wires before. They revealed much about the twigs, however, which would otherwise be missed.

Pereira’s incongruous marriage of formal and antiformal materials comments on a change which has taken place in much ’70s art. In these works conflicting esthetics are brought into direct confrontation—with provocative and quite successful results.

––Nancy Foote