New York

Jackie Ferrara

Max Protetch Gallery

Jackie Ferrara’s new wood sculptures take a step toward complexity, and consequently endanger the basic position established in her earlier work. That position consists of a number of interrelated antimonies. The first maintains that there is a balance between reading the form as a unit—a gestalt—and viewing it as a construction of parts. From this basic dualism comes the tension between the obvious mathematical system which generates the form and the form itself (a pyramid, an incline, steps, etc). There is really no reason why, given certain mathematical formulae which determine the “cuts” into the solid shape, the overall impression should be of architectural form. The fact that Ferrara chooses to use architectural forms begs the question of whether or not she is doing un- or under-realized monuments instead of sculpture. For behind the sculptural realization lie the idealized mental processes and impersonal conceptual systems which take on as much importance (and beauty, in Ferrara’s drawings) as the works themselves.

Whereas the earlier work was built solidly, with outside and inside clearly defined and unitary, the new sculptures have a multitude of “cuts” which break the forms apart. These complicated cuts, although derived from rationalized ratios, break down the impression of unity with multiple insides and hidden empty spaces which cannot be completed visually from any viewpoint. Some of the cuts have ceased to function as line implying space, and become wide autonomous spaces themselves. Layers are no longer contiguous except at the corners, and these “voids” disrupt continuity.

All the work shown was table-model size. The interactions between cuts in space and constructed solids used to be clear when the sculptures were larger; the forms did not break apart because the control of proportion and scale was exact. Now, with the widening of cuts and the complexities of construction, the small scale disrupts our understanding of either the generating system or the form as a whole. And so we begin to question the arbitrary decision to use these particular referential architectural forms, and also wonder if it is after all only the intricate system of ratios that Ferrara is interested in. Being caught between the notions of series, progression and addition, and oneness, stasis and subtraction, without any hope of resolution, makes me think that Ferrara’s sculptures are models for solutions but not solutions themselves.

The one thing I regret about Ferrara’s sculptures is that, in the gallery, I can’t pick them up, turn them around, search them by touch. The first time I saw someone pick one up, I was surprised to find that it was glued together. There is a certain amount of illusion involved here because one associates the stacked construction with toy blocks and child’s play. Ferrara’s works look as if they can be taken apart and put back together in any number of ways. That’s not the case. Being able to see the work through its bottom or on its side made the work fuller and more interesting for me. It also heightened the ambiguity between conception as a “whole” and as the sum of parts. For the reality of Ferrara’s sculptures is that, when you pick them up, they don’t fall apart.

Jeff Perrone