New York

Rosemarie Castro

Tibor de Nagy Gallery and Hal Bromm Gallery

Rosemarie Castoro’s “Shrines” seem to be involved in an ongoing crystallization, angling now to the left, now the right, pulling upward, then downward in serpentine cascade—which accounts for their sometimes cockeyed balance. Facets reproduce themselves in obedience to some shifting force field, some attraction capable of raising cubed hackles on the back of a sheer cliff face, dimpling the unexposed side. These grottoes seem to have arrived, if incompletely, rather than been made.

In fact, they are objects of emergence in another sense: these cocoons are empty. The shrugged-off carapace of the body/organism was important to Castoro in her “Flashers” series, some of which were simultaneously on view at Reade Street Park. But these new structures allow for more oblique figural hints, a new span of “literary” allusions, and more formal permutations within the set. Castoro pits an imitation of subtractive stone-cutting against her additive construction technique, occasional classical contrapposto and puns on Robert Adam-esque sculpture niches against the cubist revivals of Mel Kendrick, Steve Keister, and Italo Scanga (the busts). Like them, she investigates the place of surface drawing in sculpture, but whereas their marks preoccupy themselves with illusional or decorative amplifications, Castoro’s band together in parallel lines, seemingly to push the planes into being. Their existence makes the plane, as if Castoro wished to illustrate Kandinsky’s statement that “the straight line carries within it . . . the desire . . . to give birth to a plane.” They are the chromosomes of the congruent unit cells that make up the entire structure. Hachure, in other words, is dimensionalized. The pieces also get the one variance that had not yet been applied for in Cubism: they have naturalized a formerly mechanistic metaphor. These are the houses at L’Estaque when they were still caves. If one cannot go spelunking in them—their small scale keeps them out of the grander branches of the landscape tradition—neither can one talk about Castoro’s nature as exactly cultivated, except maybe as a defoliated echo of Alexander Pope’s garden at Twickenham.

This kind of ranginess is new to Castoro. She has always been good at the abbreviated graphic—in fact, her three years’ worth of portraits of the “people I have known” sort are practically croquis; shorthand is her drafting métier. The result was that one was granted an immediate reaction, but no possibility of further or repeated experience with the work. It was the quickest of all possible reads. One wall piece from 1972, But, But, is especially representative of this. A group of Roy Lichtenstein-ish mimicries of the brushy stroke—painstakingly cut out of plywood, textured with modeling paste, covered with graphite—the work looks as if Castoro felt she could not get beyond this monosyllabic beginning. The minimalist stutter always had the power to rivet attention, as any speech defect does, but it’s still a relief to hear whole sentences.

Jeanne Silverthorne