Lucia Nogueira

Anthony Reynolds Gallery

We all like to think of artmaking as involving some kind of transformation. Lucia Nogueira is an expert at making something seem like everything and nothing. She put seven separate works in the small upstairs gallery here, and three more downstairs, but the space felt anything but cluttered. Hers is an art of prestidigitation—of the myriad tricks of the conjurer or juggler.

Diabolo, 1995, a narrow wooden shelf, painted pale blue, ran into an angle in the wall. It was supported by, but not screwed onto, one small bracket, a set-up that seemed rather precarious given that, apparently, there were no other fastenings. At one end of the shelf, in the angle of the wall, sat two bouncy rubber balls. Small though they were, even this much weight would have been enough to topple the shelf were it not for the beam of light that balanced it by “pressing down” on the opposite end. The whole thing was at once ludicrous and singularly visual in its impact. Look but don’t touch. Any attempt at interference would destroy it completely. Someone did touch Swing, 1995, the section of horizontal wooden railing running high up on the opposite wall. The wood had not been smoothed, but the harshness of its surface had been leavened by a layer of dust-clotted grease in which two hand marks were clearly visible. The fingertips faced into the gallery, indicating that the marks must have been made by someone hanging down from the wall side.

The four casters of Catch, 1995, were held in place by the sheet of glass laid over them. The same was true of Pinocchio, 1995, a glass-topped table whose four painted metal legs had been inverted. One of them projected, proboscislike, from beneath the table. Its removal as a support was countered by a cast-iron doorknob set on the glass that could perhaps be tweaked in order to keep things in play if they started to collapse. Flare matches were scattered over the surface of the glass in Catch. The leg of a seatless chair, in Mischief, 1995, snagged the end of a roll of trash bags. Opened out, the gaps between the handles of one and the bottom of the next formed a string of seat-shaped holes running across the floor.

Even the floor of the gallery was a potentially hazardous zone. Shards of colored glass lay at either end of an oriental carpet in Step, 1995, but where this danger could, with watchfulness, be avoided, the weakness in the fabric of the building that Bald Fact, 1995, revealed had to be constantly tested in order to see the art at all. At the center of the upstairs gallery stood a flagpole (no flag) from which a strip of almost invisible transparent tape ran to the wall at about head level—a fragile band of adhesive waiting to attract all the dust and hairs in the room. The tape was attached to the wall by more tape in what was a neat but nonetheless strictly ad hoc manner. Stretched taut, the tape would loosen as you approached since the change in pressure on the floorboards would shift the position of the pole . It sprang back as soon as you moved away. Here it was not simply a case of “don’t touch,” but “don’t even come near.” Like Diabolo’s shelf and the glass panes elsewhere, the floor, too, was a tender surface. As if to hold the floor together, Needle, 1995, consisted of thin red-rubber tubing coming out of a hole, running along the floor and disappearing down another hole, only to reappear a short distance further on. These vivid, bloody stitches traveled half the length of the gallery, but even they were divided near one end by another sheet of glass that leaned, quite comfortably but maybe dangerously, against the wall.

Michael Archer