New York

Gedi Sibony

For his recent show at Canada, New York–based artist Gedi Sibony appeared to have raided the supply closets, mail rooms, and cubicles of America, cobbling the unassuming materials he found there into rough-hewn, kooky, weirdly elegant sculptures that owed something to arte povera, something to Richard Tuttle, and something, perhaps, to the laconic, screw-you formalism of Georg Herold. The impression of a kind of back-office bricolage was conveyed primarily by an abundance of commercial carpet, which climbed toward the ceiling in a patchwork tapestry (The Framework Planned [all works 2004]) and hung from the wall in a big Beuys-gray rectangle (Outside). Sibony also put cardboard, wood, and packing tape to good use, vacillating nonchalantly between a minimalist aesthetic and more-is-more craftiness. In one untitled work, he covered the back of a hollow-core door with a crude mosaic of carpet scraps and tape-wrapped pieces of cardboard. Elsewhere he stood a jagged shard of foam insulation about two feet from a wall and used silver-painted twigs to outline its shadow (A Perfectly Faithful Replica). The works interacted with one another and with the space, projecting various overlapping pieces of themselves across viewers’ sight lines and insinuating themselves slyly into the architecture, in the form of a single silver-painted flagstone near one freestanding work, and in tapering arabesque slivers of carpet that crept along the floor. As a whole, the show exuded a sense of madcap melancholy, of whimsy in the face of disaster—perhaps because so many of the works appeared to be teetering on the brink of collapse. With its jerry-rigged, improvisational quality, the exhibition registered the inherently quixotic nature of contemporary sculpture, saddled as it is with the task of asserting actuality, or objecthood, in the face of ever-proliferating virtuality.

The works that incorporated sticks and twigs, like the spindly, coltish assemblage Neither Warrior Nor Arrow and the clunky yet serpentine Its Material Components Are Only Specific Unfolded Forms, were especially poignant somehow, conjuring a tragicomic sense of nature compromised by culture—analogous, perhaps, to a potted palm tree in a corporate atrium. The work encouraged this kind of metaphorical reading in a number of ways, from the allusive titles to the runner of carpet that extended into the hallway at the gallery’s entrance. “Walk this way,” it seemed to say—hinting that the show inside was meant not merely to be looked at but to be experienced on the move. Introducing the figure of the pathway—itself a signifier of narrative—at the very start, it invited physical peregrinations to become interpretive ones. In his artist’s statement Sibony writes, “I want to convey a kind of discovery by moving through things the way allegory incorporates various energies in a harmonious environment. This might be understood as an alignment of symbolic thinking and material tactility.” In other words, he seems concerned with tracing the process by which “pure” form transmutes itself into symbol. But rather than conceive of this process as the basis for referential gamesmanship or as a dreaded entropic slippage (as, for example, some Minimalists did when confronted with Michael Fried’s accusation of anthropomorphism), he posits it as the opening up of new realms of possibility.

Elizabeth Schambelan