New York

Jody Pinto

Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza Sculpture Garden, Hal Bromm

The installation of Jody Pinto’s Structure: For Dürer’s Barnhand, 1985, one of an ongoing series of temporary installations in the small bilevel plaza adjoining the United Nations Building, proved a successful temporary insertion into a not uninteresting but problematic site. In contrast to the sleek Modernism of the plaza and adjacent building, Pinto built a rough wood structure, reminiscent of regional vernacular architecture, that ran east-west along the plaza, visually connecting its two elevations. The west end of the work was a raised pier much like the boardwalks used in Venice when the combination of a full moon and sea storms causes flooding. This pier extended to the low wall that marks the pedestrian entrance to the plaza; a vertical hooked truss partially bridged the entrance, its visual line extending to a twin construction on the opposite, lower level of the plaza. The east boardwalk terminated at the base of a 16-foot plywood-sheathed tower, against which a beam was placed at an abrupt and impossible incline. From the open top of the tower, a large hand, its “palm” painted white, gestured an appeal.

Pinto’s work is influenced by a combination of anecdotal, mythological, and literary sources. In this particular work she looked to a Dürer engraving of the Nativity depicted within a barnlike structure. Darer attempted to link Northern and Southern Renaissance painting, just as Pinto’s installation joined the east and west (and dissimilar) elevations of the plaza; however, it is more likely that Pinto was simply and literally identifying aspects of passage. Her facile interpretation of unusual sources is mitigated, as in all outdoor installations, by the incalculable response of the public. In this case, her interrupted pier created a welcome discourse between the open, noisy, elevated area on Second Avenue and the shaded, street-level plaza on 47th Street. While physical passage was impeded, the work had a continuous conceptual reach.

A concurrent exhibition at Hal Bromm’s East Village gallery included paintings on wood and paper, a plaster construction, and an interior installation. The installation, Passage for an Acrobatic Worship, 1985, was an intimate, isolating work that provided a counterpoint to Pinto’s more open-ended public piece. One entered a narrow darkened corridor that curved out sharply from a wall of the gallery and permitted movement in a clockwise direction only. The corridor ended abruptly at the base of an inclined beam with a perpendicular foot, above which there was a small slot that provided the installation’s only source of interior light. One could recline on this beam fora moment of isolated reflection; leather straps, similar to the handles on a vaulting horse, were provided in case meditation should lead to impulsive acrobatics. In this installation, Pinto confirmed (as she had in earlier work) that discipline derives from introspection and is not outwardly imposed.

Pinto’s large installations engage on many levels. The act or the promise of passage, as well as the works’ titles, encourage an interpretive, theoretical reading, and she has a clear understanding of the difference between public and private production. Although her lexicon of unusual sources did not, in the recent constructions, seem to significantly advance her ideological investigations, there is in all of her work a sense of impending breakthrough to the exposure of the myths that structure our society and bind us to the past.

Patricia C. Phillips