New York

Robert Grosvenor

Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

Like two malleable lumps flung against the ground, Robert Grosvenor’s new wood sculptures sag and push down to the gallery floor, corners rounded, surface smooth. The roundness is new—the solidity and bulky mass of the pieces contrast with the single broken logs previously shown. Here, rows of creosoted logs form a single emphatic shape, still Minimal in that each is a single compact unit, but with an emphasis on weight and restrained shaping. Overall the pieces are strongly reminiscent of Jackie Winsor’s concern with contained energy and compression.

Like Winsor’s work, these pieces hint at mysterious inner workings, and occasional exposed bolts suggest similar hidden means of construction. But unlike Winsor’s insistence on the laborious process building layer after layer of the material, Grosvenor’s concentration plays outside the piece, emphasizing mass and weight. Outside forces, rather than internal, have shaped these huge lumps of wood. The brutal forces that chopped and mangled the single logs, leaving crushed ends exposed, have been kinder to these conglomerates, though. Surface and end are contoured and smoothed, and gravity becomes the pivotal energy at play.

All these descriptions are accurate and valid, yet the work seems to exist in a curious void. After the description, no impact is felt. Just as the single log pieces were interesting, acceptable, valid, so these two huge pieces are interesting, mysterious, heavy, etc. They do have an air of presence, of contained energy, they do perpetuate Grosvenor’s concern with gravity and turn his direction away from the linear. It seems as if there should be more to say about them, but that about says it all. The pieces are successful but vaguely unsatisfying, perhaps because of a new emphasis on the work as object.

As objects they lack an emphasis on their own reason for existing. No longer illustrative of a particular process, like the broken logs, they seem halfway between cause and result. It’s as if the process end of the work has been subjugated to the result end of the work, without a balancing rise in the meaning of the piece itself. It implies that something happened, it looks well, and yet it can’t seem to justify itself. Maybe the next piece will do that.

Deborah Perlberg