New York

Jim Lambie, Sun Orchid, 2011, aluminum, polished steel, wood, full-gloss paint, 8' 2 1/2“ x 24' 10” x 10".

Jim Lambie, Sun Orchid, 2011, aluminum, polished steel, wood, full-gloss paint, 8' 2 1/2“ x 24' 10” x 10".

Jim Lambie

Anton Kern Gallery

Jim Lambie, Sun Orchid, 2011, aluminum, polished steel, wood, full-gloss paint, 8' 2 1/2“ x 24' 10” x 10".

Spiritualized is the name of an English space-rock band; it was also the title of Jim Lambie’s recent quasi-psychedelic, kiss-me-I’m-so-clever display of painting and sculpture at Anton Kern Gallery. At once obsessive and frivolous—and maybe just a tad too enthralled by rock ’n’ roll culture—the artworks played with conventions of painting and sculpture and referenced the aesthetics of everyday things. The whole enterprise swam in an ether of Pop, containing repurposed items of clothing (zippers, T-shirts, and belts) and allusions to popular music (Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones) and sporting a designy, neo-disco, amped-up luster. Although a semihandmade, DIY approach could still be felt in certain pieces, Lambie has begun to embrace at least the look (and values) of high production industrial fabrication. A productlike glossiness permeated the exhibition; one longed for the spatially transformative high-octane opticality of his 1999 installation Zobop.

The largest piece, Sun Orchid (all works 2011), is composed of polished-steel squares that have been mounted on the wall in stacks. The corners of each square are folded over like the dog-eared pages of a book, revealing brightly painted undersides of blue, pink, green, black, red, and white. It’s as if Lambie has taken the codes of formalist painting and turned them into theatrical scenery for a narcissists’ club: The irregularly mirrored steel surfaces offered reflections of viewers watching each other observing other pieces. Nearby, Spiritualized comprised seven steel chairs, each with a concrete block in place of the seat; together, these support an oversize deep-blue belt made from highly polished steel. If this has been designed to poke fun at the seriousness of sculpture—its gravity and gravitas—with Lambie elevating the everyday artifact into an uncanny, larger-than-life icon of gleaming desirability, the attempt at droll humor falls a bit flat. The same clothing motif recurs in the form of oversize, rolled-up belts ornamentally attached to the wall—perhaps meant to evoke the leather belt as a sexualized fetish in 1960s–’70s rock-music culture.

Other wall-based works included Zip Code, which features an array of colorful zippers stitched into the white surface of a painting—the zippered-up cuts of a Lucio Fontana or a somewhat cheap and easy reference to the “zips” of Barnett Newman. In a similar vein, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised also features zippers (these, predominantly black). They have been stitched into three overlapping white canvases that here were attached to the wall with TV mounts: an attempt at slyly conflating the languages of painting and mass media, and an allusion to the zipper as clothing-culture fetish. Vortex (Sticky Fingers) features a black-and-white vinyl poster of Keith Richards with his arm around Mick Jagger. In a move vaguely reminiscent of John Baldessari’s colorful face-effacing dots, their respective visages have been interrupted and penetrated by a hole lined with multicolored circles that recedes into the gallery wall. This work brings things full circle: The cover art for the Stones’ 1971 album, Sticky Fingers (conceived by Andy Warhol), famously featured an actual zipper and belt buckle embedded in a photo of Joe Dallesandro’s blue-jeans-clad crotch. (A related work featuring two iconic images of Bob Dylan was installed across the gallery).

Ultimately, one was left with the impression that Lambie was confecting formally accomplished, seriously irresistible, sexily superficial, and just slightly cynical eye candy for instant (aesthetic) gratification: art that is tailor-made for smart people with short attention spans.

Joshua Decter