New York

Oscar Tuazon

Maccarone | 630 Greenwich Street

In addition to works of the kind for which Oscar Tuazon is best known—sculptures made using industrial materials such as concrete, Plexiglas, and corroding rebar—his recent show at Maccarone featured a sound piece that served as the exhibition’s conceptual anchor. Entering a dimly lit room, you could hear, from a speaker mounted to a structural beam, the voice of Vito Acconci reading from a text he had written for his architectural practice in 2004, sketching out the philosophical-poetic dimensions of a planned building at the South Pole: “Come into the dark. . . . Slip inside an Antarctica of the mind. . . . The land here is white. . . . It’s too white, too bright, to sleep. . . . A white sheet of paper, a blank page . . . to make fictions on.” From a facing speaker some twenty feet away, Tuazon’s voice simultaneously intoned a text he wrote in response, which roughly echoed the rhythm of the older artist’s. “I’m writing myself across the ice, black ink on a white sheet of paper,” you heard him say. “A white page that swallows what’s written on it. If you could even call it writing. More like reciting.”

This sound piece in stereo bore the same title as the exhibition itself—My flesh to your bare bones (all works 2010). While the wording was perhaps gently ironic, given the degree to which Acconci was early on associated with the carnal (his 1971 Seedbed is invoked in Tuazon’s text), it also suggested the relationship between Tuazon and earlier artists who helped guide the post-Minimalist interests evident throughout the show—in topological space; the act of orientation; and the limits of physical structures, including the human body. Indeed, Tuazon’s prose was suffused with visceral imagery of the narrator’s body doing violence to itself as it negotiates an “Antarctica” of its own devising. The bank of fluorescent tubes partially occluded by a steel plate on the floor nearby suggested similar notions with the title I gave my name to it—a title derived, like those of the rest of the works on view, from a fragment of Tuazon’s text, which was thereby not only aurally projected but also physically strewn throughout the gallery. The third piece in the front room was I went out there and spent a night out there. The light died out while I walked and so I stopped. Installed at the entrance to the space, it invited the viewer to fissure a pane of shatterproof glass underfoot, while a pristine sheet was suspended above—two states of the same body, flesh to bare bones.

On one hand, the kinds of forms that Tuazon makes are familiar. We know these places: the empty lot next to the discount supermarket at the edge of town; the corroding I-beams of the new development that went bankrupt midconstruction; the dried-out riverbed that crosses under the highway; the shuttered rest stop. Yet, on the other hand, Tuazon’s world is a kind of personal postapocalypse, a world that’s already acid-burned brown. This was clearest in the back gallery, where putrid yellow fluorescent light filtered through a waterlogged canvas, latched to the ceiling, which was continuously filled with water that dripped steadily onto the gallery floor. Nearby was I use my body for something, I use it to make something, I make something with my body, whatever that is. I make something and I pay for it and I get paid for it, a low table made from concrete and rebar that Tuazon partially demolished with a sledgehammer before the show opened. Tellingly, the object was already broken at the start of the exhibition, its use as a table—the symbolic site of all “relational” progress—irreversibly impaired. In defiance of the neoliberal imperative of conviviality and consumption, the ruins reflect a darker desire—or, perhaps, a blind need—for destruction.

Caroline Busta