Andrew Reyes


At first, Andrew Reyes’s exhibition “Cryptique” presented itself as an obstacle. An enormous X straddled the interior of the gallery, a sculpture titled Body Bilder (all works 2009), that seemed to cross out the artist’s previous oeuvre, which has been predominantly pictorial and engaged explicitly with consumer culture. But this indicator of error soon became a sign of potential—recalling the X-that-marks-the-spot on a treasure map or a positive act of signatory acceptance—once one realized that the X was in fact not a barrier, but a pair of crisscrossing diagonal trusses, one in front of the other, that could be actively negotiated.

At the intermediary space between the two white diagonals, the work, which Reyes designed using a 3-D modeling program, appeared as an architectural fragment, calling to mind the interior ramps in Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye (1929) or the intersection of up and down escalators in shopping malls or airports. The corridor also acted as a pleasantly contemplative place in which to consider the formal and spatial relationships between Reyes’s diagonal structures and the gallery’s architecture: its vertical walls; an old metal floor vent with gridded metal cover; and the weathered, gray-painted wooden floorboards that vary in width. To end this meditative pause, viewers were compelled to bow their heads while moving past the second truss—a reverent nod akin to that of a guest respectfully entering a home. Reyes’s intervention—rendered with the same chalk-white paint and drywall as the “real” walls—looked as if it were in the gallery to stay, meaning inhabitants would have to accustom themselves to negotiating the physical obstacle. The need for such adaptation is greatest in the back of the gallery: A hefty horizontal beam—titled Bob Kaiser—spanned the space, requiring staff to crawl or crouch in order to descend a set of stairs or exit the building.

Body Bilder, however, never came across as daunting or intimidating. To the contrary, the work pointed to a uniquely interactive mode of architecture; depending on one’s physical vantage point, the X served to render very different perspectives on itself and on the gallery space. While standing in the rear of the gallery, for instance, one might have beheld how the precise and straight-edged symmetry of the duplicated escalator structures is in tension with the small curvature at the base of one truss—a handcrafted, “sculptural” feature that nonetheless resists appearing shoddy or unprofessional. But a slight shift in one’s position offered a glimpse, through a triangular frame, of the street beyond, where cars flew by an orange, diamond-shaped sign affixed to a taxicab office. Reyes’s use of abstract geometrics as the means to heighten both bodily and optical awareness is especially indebted to Robert Irwin’s window-based institutional interventions (such as 1° 2° 3° 4°, 1997) or Robert Morris’s early plywood sculptures (like those exhibited at New York’s Green Gallery in 1963 and 1964). Indeed, Reyes’s project is an optimistic one; it attests to the benefits in a gradually evolving, ritualized intimacy with geometric form. Hence, Reyes may be employed to construct “Cryptique” in one’s own home or workplace, so that one can experience the ways in which such forms instill positive yet indefinable qualities in everyday life.

Dan Adler