Hayden Gallery, M.I.T.

The artists included in the “Corners” exhibition come to the theme from such widely disparate starting points that any explicit overview of the issue is made almost impossible. Although all the works in the show (with the exception of one or two) have at least some vague connection to either an inside or outside corner, only two or three of the artists extend our ability to comprehend the concept of “corner” fully.

Several objects do focus our attention toward the intersection of two wall planes. Richard Artschwager’s Corner 11, 1964–1979, is a marvelous, quirky object that might as well be a cheap formica-grained stereo speaker as a sculpture. Its slightly tacky geometry and surface and the height at which it is displayed in its own corner (about 4 feet) suggests a homey domestication of the architectural angle. Bryan Hunt’s Lure 1, 1978, does not so much hang in a corner as appear to have landed there, dartlike. Again placement height is crucial here, as the metallic form hovers above our heads. There is something lightly humorous about its delicate pinion point, something slightly ominous about its tentative anchoring. The blimplike form draws our interest to that corner point even as it casts an irregular set of shadows that parenthetically embrace the line of intersection. In these and other corner objects, the meeting of the walls seems less a factor for the audience to consider than the specific qualities of the objects themselves and their displayed height.

While these and other works like James Ford’s Stanza No. 11 and Don Dudley’s untitled optical striations do indeed use corners as their support, others, like John Avery Newman’s Vexed and Tired, create their own corners. But these all deal with the corner as an architectural detail lending structure and, in some cases, visual interest to the artists’ own creations.

Corners can be either starting places or results, but in this exhibition most of the works use them only as points of departure. Where are the actual corners constructed by Aycock, Ferrara et al.? What about the visual echoing set up by a corner (only Jennifer Bartlett’s piece, Pieces Dark Star, imitates the reflectivity of a right angle). Artists for whom the corner is an integral part of their thinking are missing entirely—not only those who build architectonic corners but Flavin and his lights, Morris with his mirrors, Stella with his sculptured canvases and especially Serra with his thrown lead corner pieces. This is not just nit-picking, for exclusions like these seem to question the validity of mounting such a small theme show.

Only one artist at the Hayden, Patrick Ireland, addresses the corner in a dynamic, multiple consideration. The gaily drawn cord illusions of A Corner for Tatlin and Fred Astaire never actually touch the corner. They don’t need to for the viewer is attracted to the tension, stretching, lassitude and interruptions that occur in cord and shadow between the two walls. In many ways these are perfect adjectives for the ways in which a corner works perceptually. His other work in the exhibition, Rope Drawing #53, 1979, deals with the viewer’s position as it shifts around a corner, again creating multiple junctures in line, color, shape and cast shadows. Ireland thinks about “corner” here in an expansive way, full of both wit and erudition.

Whether in architecture, sculpture or planar design, corners occur at stopping points, interruptions in a constant directional flow. Unfortunately, the “Corners” exhibition did not concentrate on artists whose work is umbilically attached to the corner as a concept but chose instead to show artists who are predominantly interested in the corner as a physical armature.

Ronald J. Onorato