New York

Heide Fasnacht

Germans Van Eck Gallery

Heide Fasnacht’s new sculptures mark a departure from her work of the past decade. Until now, Fasnacht has worked primarily in wood. In the mid ’80s, her precise geometric wall reliefs grew progressively rougher and more biomorphic. As these spiraling configurations evolved, they moved from the wall to the floor and increased in scale, culminating in configurations of spheres that challenged the viewer’s sense of space and balance. By the late ’80s Fasnacht had returned to a refined geometric vocabulary, with large, often brightly painted planes, cylinders, and spheres that set the stage for her latest stylistic about-face. As Fasnacht has alternately favored the poles of a familiar dialectic between the rational and the intuitive, her recent return to a post-Minimalist-inspired mode is perhaps less surprising than it at first seems if viewed in light of this tendency. This same dialectic animates individual sculptures as well. This is certainly the case with the 11 works in this show, which paradoxically combine calculated symmetry with a sense of chance and impermanence. Dead Giveaway (all works 1990) consists of a rectangular base bolted to the floor, sprouting arms that torque in opposite directions. A central arm bears a weighty, layered sphere that sags like a limp phallus. Low to the ground and seemingly poised for potential motion, this work obliquely evokes both machine and body parts but doesn’t rely exclusively on either association. More than ever before, Fasnacht has relinquished a degree of control over her finished product, and the qualities inherent in the rubber seem to have directed her solutions here.

In Quintet, a work in which five circular holes partially cut out of a triangular piece of rubber hang limply in place, Fasnacht has drawn attention to the process of construction by the irregularity of her incisions, as well as by leaving bits of drawing visible. Other works depend upon a tension between the negative space left by a cut-out, and its positive counterpart perched or splayed nearby. Terra Lingua, a large construction of rubber components riveted together, is flat except for a tonguelike flap which is recoiled as if ready to flip over and propel itself slowly across the floor.

Fasnacht’s evocation of body parts is never facile. In contrast to Robert Morris’ overtly vaginal felt pieces of the ’60s, her sculptures rely more on materials than on shape, aspiring to a curious tautness or limpness that is suggestive but not explicitly sexual. Second Skin is a floor-to-ceiling cluster of rubber rectangles reminiscent of armor or scales that conform to a body in motion.

A surprising by-product of Fasnacht’s project is the appearance of cartoonlike shapes, created by the contours of the cut rubber pieces. These humorous resonances, encouraged by the titles, offer a note of welcome comic relief in this serious and compelling body of work.

Jenifer P. Borum

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