New York

Lisa Sigal

Frederieke Taylor Gallery

Lisa Sigal’s installations lean left. They also lean right, forward, and backward, and extend out from freestanding painted sheets of wood, Masonite, drywall, insulation board, cardboard, vellum, and paper onto gallery walls, at times jutting into and out of those walls as though in homage to Gordon Matta-Clark’s cutouts. Unlike any number of recent artists who deploy color primarily in order to highlight three-dimensional form, Sigal seems equally invested in painting and sculpture. Her works combine the delicacy and skill of Monique Prieto’s canvases with the elemental architectural impulse of Marjetica Potrč’s sculptural objects.

The Limits Returning (all works 2004), one of the smaller installations of the six that comprised her recent exhibition at Frederieke Taylor, reveals the movement between phenomenality and institutionality that informs Sigal’s broader project. A two-by-three-foot frame is perched atop the edge of a five-by-three-foot frame, the upper shape suggesting a distended window, the lower, which is propped against a wall, an unhinged, knobless door. Both forms are predominantly white and opaque, as are the walls and floor of the gallery, but, with house paint and flashe (a vinyl acrylic that can be thinned with water), they have been marked with blood-red blocks, sky-blue patches, and a thin orange line that braches from one edge of the lower frame up to the top of the upper section. One aspect of the aptly titled work seems to imagine an extended limit to the frames, but another leads back to its literality, its slablike thingness, which demands viewing from a variety of angles but ultimately shuts us out.

This locked-in, gazing-out feel is brought to the fore in Institutional, which, using only drywall, joint compound, sparingly deployed greenish- and pinkish-gray paint, and an intractable silence, exudes a far creepier sense of being surveilled than does an entire buzzing, shouting exhibition of gizmos by Julia Scher. Between the blunt support and the slapped-on paint, the leaning surfaces and the shadows they create, the installation conveys a suffocating penitentiary redolent of Foucauldian “remote processes” of subjectification: Are we inside or outside the box? What is the difference? At the work’s top right edge, hastily outlined in a sky-blue tint, is a little guard-tower shape, a motif subtly repeated in several of these works.

In Architectural Shadows, the largest and boldest installation in the show, Sigal juxtaposes radically different planar materials, painting some with latex in a range of corporate hues including pale green, peach, tan, and gray, and some with delicate gouche, while leaving others almost bare, naked in their “mere” utility. (Several works have a deliberately unfinished feel, as if completion would expose them to complicity with commerce.) Components hang together uneasily: Diagonally placed cardboard-box pieces and the crawl spaces they create look like they might protect a skid-row sleeper; blue land-masses float Gondwanaland-like against dull gray “seas” on large maplike canvases; a little, leaning wood panel painted a lusterless orange and sky blue looks like Kara Walker’s silhouettes, digits seemingly reaching upward in an ambiguous gesture commingling hope, degradation, and despair.

As with Walker, Potrč, Prieto, and Matta-Clark, artists whose practices otherwise couldn’t be more divergent, there is a persistent note of protest in Sigal’s work, which comes not from unadulterated play but rather places itself against something—a tradition, a technique, the history of a form, a distant sky—leaning on a limit without expecting it to give way.

Nico Israel