New York

David Rabinowitch

In the mid ’60s, David Rabinowitch planned a large series of sculptures, each to be fabricated in a different wood. Though the shapes of the proposed objects are relatively simple, the difficulty of constructing them using seamlessly joined, individually planed sections of wood is so formidable that to date few have been realized.

One of the finest single-work New York exhibitions in memory, Open Wood Construction (Poplar), 1966, was fabricated only last fall by Tadashi Hashimoto assisted by Satoru Igarashi in the gallery where it remained on view for four months. The beauty of the object lies not only in its structural and material details, but in the complexity of effect that arises from its apparent simplicity. Big, available, and systematic as the piece is, its shape is not easily learned. It consists of a hollow shaft that stands ten feet tall at its high end and spreads to a width of eight feet at its low end. The width of the top and the height at the bottom are both 24 inches. The unpainted walls of the sculpture are a consistent two inches thick, and the transition they make between the work’s upright and floorbound extremes is so smooth that the wood looks as if it has been stretched taut like an elastic fabric.

At first glance, it is easy to overlook the fact that the two apertures differ crucially in shape. Although both openings are basically retangular, and their width is the same, the vertical opening is two feet longer than the horizontal one. Each has two rounded corners and two right-angled ones. At the horizontal end, the orthogonal corners are diagonally opposite each other; at the vertical end, both right angles are on the same long side of the rectangular opening. These divergencies dictate that the sculpture’s contours slope at subtly different rates as curvature and angularity flip-flop along the object’s length.

The work leapfrogs Minimalist issues current when the piece was first planned; Open Wood Construction (Poplar) seemingly does the impossible: it makes visible and tangible the shift between two incommensurable gestalts. Perhaps that is how this work with no manifest emotional content, stirs a rush of wordless psychological energy that abstract sculpture rarely taps without resorting to spookiness.

Kenneth Baker