Los Angeles

Rob Fischer

Mary Goldman Gallery

Whether grafting a house onto an airplane (as he did in Cargo Plane with Crate House, 1996), constructing stacks of domestic-style couches, or, in what has become a signature move, gutting, upturning, and slicing and dicing Dumpsters, Rob Fischer has developed a practice that links two established sculptural traditions: the found object and the post-Minimalist environment. For his recent exhibition, Fischer filled the space with a single work that fits nicely within his oeuvre, which habitually pits clunkiness against elegance, movement against stasis, and whim against rigor. This work, however, was both conceptually nimbler and more formally accomplished than any of the artist’s previous projects.

Expanding on his recent works using salvaged floorboards, Fischer here ransacked a gymnasium. Joined together in planks ten boards wide, the reclaimed timber formed a path running throughout the space, turning always at right angles. It began with a ragged edge of unevenly aligned boards and ran down a wall and onto the fl oor, where paths one could walk on were interrupted as they turned vertical and then leveled out again in horizontals, occasionally turning upside-down. Along the way, blips and dashes of color—the remnants of lines that once delineated a basketball court—accentuated the directional flow of the work. Eventually, the path made a mad dash up another gallery wall, inched out onto the ceiling, and ended in another uneven edge.

While the conceit that the work somehow traced the route of a bullrider might have been a stretch, one didn’t need the title, Bullrider’s Advice, 2006, to make an association with the Minotaur’s labyrinth. And much as it was fantastical, the work also carved the room into a real maze of positive and negative space that one could actually navigate. In presenting viewers with a series of obstacles to walk around, step over, and stoop under, Fischer did what successful sculptors from Bernini to Serra have done—made one aware of the nuances of physical being. The visual and spatial experience of the work was perplexing not just because of its sheer novelty but also because of the disorienting organization of the planes. In this sense it was intriguing, but once one had managed to navigate it and arrive in the middle of the room, the remainder of the work offered only a diminishing complexity and interest.

The pleasure to be found in Fischer’s project came from its fusion of nostalgia and momentum, its inherent optimism, and its channeling of odd and diverse precedents, including Marcel Duchamp’s 3 Standard Stoppages, 1913–14, and his readymades, Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942–43, Kurt Schwitters’s assemblages, and Gordon Matta-Clark’s “anarchitecture.” And, like any of these predecessors, Fischer seems insistent, at a time when many artists seem reticent or doubtful, that art exists to change how we think about the world.

Christopher Miles