New York

Vincent Shine

An enormous “fruiting body” clung to the side of a white pedestal halfway down a narrow space off the main gallery. Situated between the fragile clover and the precious gold bug, this agglutination (which the artist describes as “tomentose,” “blood red when wounded”) looked like an obscene quantity of plasticene pushed into a provisional place, its surface carefully smoothed and articulated to resemble something—but nothing I’ve ever seen; possibly viscera, though the context suggested fungi. Its worked surface retained the familiar marks of figure modeling: the plane of the knife, little divets, burrs, and gobs, and a few knee or shoulder gashes as if it had been squashed by visitors. Below it, also clinging to the pedestal and of the same material, a curved form like the base of a column wrapped around two sides. The material used in this piece was actually neoprene, cast and stiff. As plasticene, Fruit body yellow toward a white sterile tomentose margin; colors vary flesh, olive-yellow, brownish-yellow, chestnut; blood-red when wounded, 1992, might speak of process, inexactness, temporality, the model not the thing; as neoprene, permanent, it is the thing, and looks back on all that preceded it.

This ungainly excrescence is an exception to Vincent Shine’s delicacies—cast clover, printed wasps—in which trembling hands or awkward materials are forsworn in favor of the perfection of plastic and the indirection of computer processes. Even the other fungi in the show, recognizable from their caps and stems, have papery gills too thin to be separated by stubby fingers. The proximity of Shine’s early plant works to the real (and their distance from signs of human fabrication) brought squeals of pleasure when they first appeared, while the simple shift in context—from the natural history museum, where the artist was working, to the art gallery—provided another level of meaning, a relation to real life. More and more he tries to deny us the pleasure of those first little miracles, as if they weren’t enough; here his green-painted clovers are also done in white—Platonic shadows sucked of delight. His fungi stink of art and art school, and his copulating wasps (actually drawings of wasps), scanned, combined, layered, and colored, are minimonsters many times removed (through linear abstraction and mechanical reproduction) from their referents. Intended to provide matrices for emotional projections, these tiny, perfect, and bilaterally symmetrical works are calmed by illustration, science, and the artist’s meticulous control. Recognition of specific images is indeed frustrated but instead of imagining storms or faces, I’m squealing again at detail, the subtle fuzz of Xerox on Bristol board compared to the clarity of graphite on Mylar, and how they overlap to make a form and its shadow one. The painted images are united by Halloween colors. With this new work, Shine has moved from reproducing nature, running after it, to redesigning it, two steps ahead. (Perhaps like Darwin conjuring a hypothetical moth then waiting for someone to discover it.)

If anything offers a ground for emotional projections, it is that anomalous gray-green body/blob (“flesh, olive-yellow, brownish-yellow, chestnut”). Why does this show in all its delicacy and restraint seem pointed and sharp? At the end of the corridor, the body of a wasp cast in gold lies adrift in a vitrine placed on a pedestal—legless, wingless, but precious as jewelry, its tiny stinger intact.

Laurie Palmer