New York

Mary Frank

Zabriskie Gallery

Mary Frank’s bent is romantic, her sculptures a poeticized recapitulation of an Edenic period when man and woman enjoyed a unity with nature that amounted to a lack of individuation. Human arms are sometimes webbed, stopped in the middle of the evolutionary trajectory. Figures and flora are threads of a single fabric. Previously, when Frank laid her figures prone in a bed of sand, the mutuality with nature was presented as a closed-off option, fossilized, shedding the hushed glamour of any find seeming to be the repository of eons. Now it may be that this vision of mythic felicity is offered as a brave new world, as in Nancy Spero’s scrolls. Striding and écorché, like Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, the figures rush headlong into their own futurist biological utopia, at the same time that they flee from the primeval, but still natural, upheaval that touched off their alienation in the first place.

Frank’s pathos, however, like Kounellis’, arises from the intestate nature of her kingdom come. This description of Elysium is ad hoc, pieced together out of fragile shards, splitting in what may be the teeming proliferation of fission but more likely is the fissuring of anxiety. Take Frank’s pieta. It throbs with an almost overdone tenderness over the physiological bond between mother and child. Yet that exaltation is mitigated by the firm way that physiology critiques the participants’ divinity. Both are anonymous, the man generalized into a mask, the woman overborne by the nurturing parts of her anatomy. Ontogeny repeats phylogeny in Frank’s world, with the result that one can never really get beyond one’s own moment in history, of the individual or the species.

Jeanne Silverthorne