New York

Peter Agostini

Zabriskie Gallery

David Hare’s symbol of time is the cycle of the life of Cronus. Peter Agostini’s symbol of time is the aging of the individual human. He is, himself, in his early ’60s, far from aged but old enough to look ahead. He anticipates his aging (and our own) by modeling and casting a series of heads and one standing figure, all of which represent very old men.

We remember Agostini for his abstract sculpture, in which flexible shapes, often altered and distorted inner tubes, were given immobility and presence when cast in white plaster. The new work risks sentimentality. It deals with that process by which the attrition of age acts on the human face to create battered and sagging caricatures of the ideal symmetry of youth. This process is translated through the immediate actions of the sculptor’s hand. All of the heads were made quickly, some in less than an hour. The action of modeling, which lasts only a few minutes, depicts a process of aging that takes almost a century. These old men are ravaged and decrepit. Their faces have almost dissolved back into the clay. They retain their humanity yet they are grotesque. The standing figure is of an aging Apollo, again indicating the distance between a cultural ideal of youth and the physical fact of age. He carries his flabby flesh on a frame both proud and vulnerable. The mockery of the heroics of classical antiquity is deliberate. The old Apollo can’t quite keep up his act.

What keeps Agostini’s collection of grotesques free from sentimentality is the toughness of his vision and the grace of his hand. He faces aging. He celebrates it and mocks it at the same time. “My turn next,” the artist says. “Your turn next,” say his old men.

––Paul Brach