new-york

Kathleen McCarthy

Gracie Mansion

In two separate installations, Kathleen McCarthy used the form of the human hand to demonstrate both the dexterity and the limitations of anatomy, as well as the persistence and inadequacy of conventional symbols. In both situations, the familiar form triggered a range of funny impressions and disturbing speculations.

On four walls of the main gallery, McCarthy wrapped a series of 26 larger-than-life-sized wooden hands colored with red phosphorous around the room. Each hand formed a letter in sign language, and they were arranged in alphabetical order. Entitled Muted Exhortations (both works 1990), this installation, in its methodical depiction of the sign language alphabet, presented a formal and spatial analogue for the struggle of communication between the hearing and the nonhearing, and for our dependence on sight and touch when sound does not exist. The wooden hands emphasized the

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