New York

Not Vital

Sperone Westwater Barone/Boisanté

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an installation in which the wall became so much more than a neutral backdrop. At Sperone Westwater, Not Vital’s bronze castings of sheep tongues projected from the gallery wall like claws in a horror film. Some turned into fingers, while others were obviously penile. Only the devil knows what polymorphous monster hid behind the wall. In Snowballing the Giraffe, 1997, Vital seemed to have hurled globs of plaster at it, but clearly the creature is more unsavory and bizarre than a giraffe, and the comic snowballs don’t begin to penetrate its lair. The skin-and-bone remains of its meal were all around the gallery—a horn, a zebra skull hanging on the wall, ostrich skin, and, to cap it all, a stuffed greyhound supporting a plaster cast of a human leg.

The gallery’s front room served as something like an antechamber to the inner sanctum of the backroom, where

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