New York

Edward Allington

Diane Brown Gallery

The title of one of Edward Allington’s new assemblages is Aphrodite Debased Again, 1986—de-based, that is; 139 detached. Ours is an age of fragmentation partly because we are a nomadic 140 culture that takes along on each of its moves whatever is not nailed down. We are tenants rather than owners of our time. Art made of recycled components serves the new international cultural exchange well; like furniture, it is le meuble, “movable,” that which can be detached from its context and rearranged. The portability and adaptability of scavenged objects and images satisfy the contradictory instincts of the survivalist and the upwardly mobile executive. Not for nothing, then, do Allington’s sculptures resemble packing cases. Not for nothing are his drawings executed on used ledger sheets.

Unpacked in the latest gallery “apartment,” Allington’s boxes spilled out mementos of a past where there seemed to be permanence. Though spurious (one box piece called Metropolitan Egypt, 1986, suggests that museum’s bowdlerized accounting of history), their repetition of a statuette of the Venus di Milo and another of a sphinx is as soothing as the refrain of a child’s song. Adults take reassurance in the form of inventory. Allington’s ledger sheets recall the columns of numbers in Hanne Darboven’s paper works from the ’70s, in which irrational counting acts as a balm for the trauma of rootlessness—the same rootlessness that causes the discrete decorative shapes in Allington’s drawings to float above the floorboards of their depicted rooms. The decorative arts are applied arts, and hence by definition deracinated. Allington opposes these shapes to the essential Neoplatonist ones—the pyramid, sphere, and cube—self-consciously deploying them as if they were a discredited but stabilizing memory. They are as dated as perspective, a construct that Allington consistently demonstrates cannot be relied on, not only because of its inherence as fiction but also because this is an age that “lacks perspective.” In this show, a pyramid of stacked boxes illustrated that we “arrive” at a point no different than that from which we started: the boxes’ contents—the classical statuettes—are all the same.

Though Allington’s drawings rely heavily (if ironically) on perspective points that end at infinity, his use of replicas. suggests that we are in the midst of infinity As he confirms in the title of one 1986 drawing, we are in Tame Time/Aphrodite ad Infinitum, which is to say, we deny death. Keeping on the move is one way of doing this: detachment preempts loss. Appropriately Allington has turned from the artificial but emblematic fertility of the cornucopias in his earlier work to a sterility that is necrophilic, an obsession with death being perhaps the most obvious refusal of its inevitability. Love (Venus) and death (the Sphinx) are equated, each in their sarcophagus/crate. Painted in stock industrial acrylics, his assemblages capture the detachment and repression of the times, with the complication of our unfailing ability (is it disastrous, or redemptory?) to be comforted.

Jeanne Silverthorne