New York

Mia Westerlund Roosen

Although Mia Westerlund Roosen’s oeuvre constitutes a sustained challenge to the hegemony of Minimalism, it would be a mistake to situate her work simply in terms of post-Minimalist polemics. Employing resin-coated fabric, and then poured and modeled concrete, she has countered Minimalism’s industrial facture with the insistently handmade, the calculated with the accidental, and the geometric with the irregular. As her work has matured, however, it has become less a reaction to specific art-historical precursors, and more the result of an internal logic generated by the artist’s experiments with her signature materials and subtle biomorphic style.

Seriality is a common denominator in Westerlund Roosen’s production. Initially appropriated from Minimalism and then used to undermine the movement’s formal dictates, it has become her modus operandi. The repeated curvilinear forms in the pastel study Drawing for Stealth (all works 1991) provide something of a blueprint for the artist’s use of repetition as a generative device, a way of instigating a formal mitosis in which one shape replicates itself. This repetition and gradual mutation of not-quite-recognizable forms is inevitably uncanny.

Westerlund Roosen’s sculptures invite organic associations, ranging from micro to macro bodily systems, due to her use of both quirky shapes and pigmented encaustic. White Lies consists of a vertical clustering of large, rough, rectangular slabs suggesting giant mitochondria, while the smaller, red, cell-like plates in the maquette-size Untitled encourage this association even more directly. By contrast, Promises Promises Promises presents a row of eight massive lips—ambiguous enough to be either oral or vaginal—embedded in adjoining arches. Upturned and parted, these eerily sensual forms affirm Westerlund Roosen’s contribution to the Surrealist tradition of sexually suggestive biomorphic abstraction. In the equally monumental Ruff, a single baroque arch supports a definitively vaginal configuration. Covered with shiny lead instead of encaustic, Ruff appears poised for flight.

Westerlund Roosen’s subtle brand of humor, frequently evidenced in her titles, permeates this show. The title Promises Promises Promises plays wittily off the yawning lips, while another title, White Lies, works as a pun on the notion of “truth to materials,” through which the artist reveals her own sleight of hand. The deceptive outer layer of encaustic (instead of Westerlund Roosen’s usual, more weighty concrete) covers a body of plaster and pulp, suggesting here a seemingly miraculous defiance of gravity, gently reminding the viewer that all is not as it initially seems.

Jenifer P. Borum