New York

Lucky DeBellevue

Feature Inc.

Lucky DeBellevue’s sculpture is a kind of cheery yet vaguely troubling arte povera kudzu plant, whose bright webs look as though they might overrun the gallery during the course of a night. DeBellevue’s witty use of cheap, readily available materials—pipe cleaners, tinfoil, cable ties, vinyl weatherstripping—recalls that of any number of other artists, including Donald Lipski, Tom Friedman, and David Hammons. The basic unit of DeBellevue’s floor and wall pieces (all works 1997) is an onion-ring–like link, which has the overall effect of erasing traces of fracture and gives them a kind of independent yet organic quality.

The only work here that didn’t immediately seem vegetal or viral was an untitled, site-specific wall piece made from vinyl weatherstripping that formed a pattern similar to that of Mondrian’s diamond compositions. It was delightful both to see that dreary gray material freed from its usual role of ineffectually stanching winter drafts, and to consider what the piece suggested about the chilliness of Mondrian and Modernism. But ultimately this least typical of DeBellevue’s pieces shared the infectious genetics of the rest of the show, as its many slight deviations from Mondrian’s right angles suggested the pattern of a fungus, or a spray of cracks, traveling outward across the gallery wall.

Happy was more representative: two piles of chain-linked pipe cleaners in orange, yellow, white, and blue, set atop two orange plastic food-trays, which were supported on the wall, more or less at eye level, with brackets. The tray on the left was about six inches higher than the one on the right, and an orange pipe-cleaner tendril wound over its edge, linking the mounds. Was this union—this two being made of one, or one being the origin of the two—“happy”? Perhaps. But the link’s resemblance to an encroaching vine, or to some sort of bacterium accidentally foaming over from one petri dish into another, also gave it a creepy, ambivalent, albeit Disney-bright, edge.

In Was Part of Cancer Society, a mound of pipe cleaners piled on a single yellow plastic food-tray on the floor, the small “growth” of blue pipe-cleaning stems woven into the upper part of its white surface rendered the title a bit too explicit. Curiously, both Was Part of Cancer Society and DeBellevue’s smaller pipe-cleaner sculptures brought to mind Philip Guston: not only the great, goofy boots-and-nails late paintings, but also the sumptuously smudged cadmium-red grids of the earlier abstractions. Influences crop up in the least likely places, and it seemed as though DeBellevue were giving strange new form to Guston’s brushwork.

Hedge, the largest and most dramatic work in the show, looked like a massive diaphanous gown, its velveteen shimmer the result of DeBellevue’s ingenious blending of different-colored pipe cleaners. In order to leave the space, one had to slink past its melodramatically extended “arm,” which blocked the doorway, grandly forbidding us to desert it and its strange, memorably metastasizing brood.

Thad Ziolkowski