San Francisco

Daniel Wiener

80 Langton Street

Surrounded by sand, Daniel Wiener’s Catwalk II intersected the gallery. A domed arc form, constructed of plastic and suspended from the ceiling, hovered over one side of the installation; a gallery door sealed in plastic and a twisted plastic shape occupied other parts of the space. In addition, seven small, ritualistic-looking sculptures, crafted primarily of wood and spun materials, were individually lit by bare light-bulbs. These operated as subtle focal points within the overall installation.

The wooden catwalk itself functioned as a boardwalk and the sporadic lights with sand reflections reiterated this quality. Wiener’s plywood and bricks merged with the construction of the gallery, so that the installation became, in a sense, a logical extension of the existing environment.

Once on the catwalk, the viewer entered a time/space displacement, in which the original contemporary feel of the installation gave over to a primitive sensation suggesting a village or campsite. The larger plastic structure became an imaginary shelter and the smaller pieces, bridges and ovens. Formal opposition between warm and cold, hard and soft, were articulated in these large forms. However, these qualities were also conveyed in the small fetishistic sculptures reminiscent of Eva Hesse. Wiener’s materials—human hair, wools and fur—are wrapped or layered onto wood structures of varying shapes. Lights and darks are juxtaposed, as well as different textures. The sculptures run the risk of becoming what they mimic, except that square pieces of glass and synthetic configurations return them to the modern genre.

Catwalk Two was best viewed at night; without the distraction of natural light, the sand retained a maximum reflectivity. While this installation did not particularly show the sculptures to their best advantage (nor was this necessarily its purpose), it did emphasize their modern/primitive dialectic. Ancient culture “fabrication” seems a currently popular art practice. But this pursuit is most effective and relevant when it recognizes the inherent ambiguities. By exposing viewers to a work that simultaneously encompasses the modern and the primitive, Wiener touches on an enduring aspect of both artistic and human experience.

Hal Fischer