New York

View of “Gedi Sibony,” 2010. Foreground: The Cutters, 2007/2010. Background: From Center, 2010.

View of “Gedi Sibony,” 2010. Foreground: The Cutters, 2007/2010. Background: From Center, 2010.

Gedi Sibony

Greene Naftali Gallery

View of “Gedi Sibony,” 2010. Foreground: The Cutters, 2007/2010. Background: From Center, 2010.

Scraps of carpet, cardboard, plywood, and the occasional swath of fabric: We’ve come to associate such materials with Gedi Sibony’s art. For nearly a decade, run-of-the-mill cast-offs have played prominent roles in his parsimonious, barely there sculptures. Sibony’s meticulous engagement with the scavenged object, his reverence for the mundane, has developed into a highly identifiable aesthetic and has seemingly been an influence on a host of emerging artists worldwide. In recent years, we’ve seen a proliferation of Sibonyesque works, with at-hand materials deployed in ways that appear overwrought and yet light as a feather, specific and vague, contemplative and humdrum, timeless and recessional. In a word: elusive. To be sure, Sibony’s sphinxlike works ever resist categorization. Perhaps that’s why they’ve been so appealing.

The artist’s second exhibition at Greene Naftali exemplified his interests in perception and metaphor, sometimes by indulging in a dramatic flair that recalled the works in his very first shows––complex collages, mosaic-like surfaces, delicate freestanding sculptures—and marked a slight departure from his recent threadbare output. From the gallery’s long corridor entryway, a striking, cropped view of a portal cut from a freestanding wall in The Cutters, 2007/2010, afforded yet another framed view—of From Center, 2010, a freestanding door (“doors of perception,” I suppose). A closer look at the would-be shrine Cutters, with its dabs and smears of white paint, canvas drop cloth, and uncertain utility, brought to mind the architecture of ancient ruins, especially Egyptian and Greek temples. Sets into Motion (Asleep Inside the Wall), 2010, continued the play of references but dug deeper into metaphor: The wooden composition––three planks fastened to four thin upright beams—seems like a wobbly Trojan horse.

Specific references were less within reach elsewhere. Indeed, while Sibony remains interested in the suggestiveness of his materials and forms, his work at times seems to be about nothing in particular; in fact, some pieces appear to examine the “meaning of meaninglessness,” to borrow a phrase from philosopher Simon Critchley. In Very Little . . . Almost Nothing (1997), Critchley uses Samuel Beckett’s writings as an example of a method making “meaning out of the refusal of meaning”: “It is a question,” Critchley writes, “of conceptualizing and communicating that which resists conceptualization and refuses communication—a necessary and impossible task.” Sibony’s The Brighter Grows the Lantern, 2010, located in a different room, featured a simple piece of white vinyl, which, from the room’s exterior, appeared to be bathed in orange-sherbet light. But inside the space, the variegated source of the uniform glow became clear: Five spotlights—one pink, two yellow, and two red—beamed down from the ceiling, the colors reflecting off the vinyl and radiating in various ways on the walls. On one level, the vinyl seems completely necessary to the work—like a transmitter of some mysterious action or energy—but on another, it seems quite inconsequential, a mere material choice.

If the question of meaninglessness is actually central to Sibony’s art, his most compelling works here moved toward an outright rejection of information. Her Trumpeted Spoke Lastly, 2010, is a matted drawing reversed in its frame; similarly, in The Fortunoff Girls, 2010, two posters hang, by yellowing pieces of tape, so they face the wall. Blocking the images from the viewers’ gaze, these works emphasize the material facts, the formal qualities, of the medium of transmission.

While so much of Sibony’s oeuvre has provided a steady diet of almost nothing, his role as an artist has been to leave just about everything open to interpretation, through unspectacular ways, always with mass-produced materials. “My thinking is more call-and-response,” he has said. Sibony’s latest work suggests a concern for meaning that is discovered over time, as his practice unfolds and develops into something much more expansive, and perhaps more inscrutable. Ideas cast off into the future seem to be emanating back in time, and they may or may not come together later down the road.

Lauren O’Neill-Butler