New York

Petah Coyne

Petah Coyne’s mysterious sculptural objects have an immediacy and presence that at first sight obliterates thought: there’s a monumentality to these objects, a monolithic presence. The large, velvety-black, spun-metal objects hang from the ceiling like insects unwittingly embalmed in spiderwebs. Yet they are not just imposing or frightening, they’re beautiful too—dreadfully handsome works of seemingly supernatural craft.

Though constructed of industrial waste—shredded car metal—these works have an organic, animal presence. Indeed, their spun-sugar delicacy belies a frightening, ominous bulk; though their shapes suggest that they drift or spin lightly in midair, in fact they hang heavily, each suspended from a hangman’s noose of rope. For all the terror they should inspire, however, these objects impress us most with their elegance. It’s as if Death itself were to meet us mid-gallery decked out in silver jewelry and a little black dress.

Coyne’s change in materials—from the sticks and twigs of her earlier work to this painted chicken wire and metallic refuse—may reflect her growing concern for our faltering environment. But not only is there no overt polemicizing in this work, there’s nothing visually histrionic either: nothing too strident either in their presentation or in their composition. In fact, it’s their stillness their lack of protest—that is most affecting. The delicacy and strange, spectral beauty of these sculptures suggest, with notable lack of sentiment, the direction in which man, nature, and culture inevitably and inexorably move.

Justin Spring