New York

Suzanne Harris

Holly Solomon Gallery

The triangular sculpture and 12 drawings that comprise Suzanne Harris’ Dalet Series keep their geometric derivation to themselves. In the drawings each triangle is bisected by a line, the angle of line differing from triangle to triangle, but always creating two interior triangles within each of the larger figures, shaded gray with graphite. One of each pair of internal triangles has been shaded once again, with brick-red pastel.

The hollow casting stands five feet high, with a wicked point on top; because it is a few degrees more obtuse than a right triangle it strains forward slightly, like a ship’s prow. Like the drawings, the sculpture is two-toned: copper-bronze and nickel-bronze were poured separately into the piece’s sand mold at the foundry. Though there is clearly a relationship between the cast and the drawings it is not evident what set of correspondences has determined these forms.

Esoteric geometry studies the proportions and essence of numbers. Harris told me the wall triangles were generated from six symmetrical figures, of, respectively, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten equilateral sides. Each one of these figures was drawn in a sketchbook; within each figure she drew straight lines connecting each interior angle to every other interior angle, tying together a symmetrical web. To make one of her triangles, she sectioned out from a figure one exterior angle and arbitrarily selected one of the lines within that angle as that triangle’s bisecting line. Finally, she shaded with graphite and pastel as described. Two such slices from each of the multi-sided figures were displayed.

Now, for the floor piece. The fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is the dalet, the show’s title, and in mystic gematria four is the first instance of volume manifesting itself. Thus the sculpture is projected from the two-dimensional wall drawings.

Harris’ previous investigations into spatial links were more directly tied to correspondences between her constructions and the spaces they were made for, as well as the four points of the compass, and the sun’s declination. For instance, Fours, 1973, a cardboard wedge with a triangular hole cut on top, projecting downward from the wall, was specifically created to harmonize with 112 Greene Street’s dimensions. Similar intentions shaped Return of the Square, 1975, also at 112 Greene Street: 24 glass steps were reduced in width like a ziggurat from four feet to four inches, as they ascended.

Discussing her Battery Park earthwork Locus One Up, Hayden Herrera noted, “Harris intends us to feel a symbolic participation in larger unities. To her, Minimalism’s simple, non-referential geometry is cold.” But Locus One Up’s alignment with compass and sun is far less difficult to perceive than The Dalet Series’ internal proportions and hermetic meanings. That is, we see what we think we know. Take the case of Professor Piazzi Smyth, 19th-century Astronomer Royal of Scotland and hard-driving publicist of the Great Pyramid’s correspondences to the earth’s proportions. Once he made information available on the Pyramid’s referential geometry, what might have been called the world’s first Minimalist sculpture has become subject to redefinition as post-Minimalist.

Harris’ geometry and gematria are so delicately balanced between internal and external reference that a little emphasis on either side of the scale has a great effect on how people see her work. This show gives little information for the viewer’s unravelling. More’s the pity, as I liked seeing the series as bits of evidence from a bigger scheme of things.

Barbara Baracks