New York

View of “Rosemarie Castoro,” 2015.

View of “Rosemarie Castoro,” 2015.

Rosemarie Castoro

BROADWAY 1602 | Uptown

View of “Rosemarie Castoro,” 2015.

On the busy shopping thoroughfare of SoHo’s Spring Street, just beyond tourists queuing for Cronuts, you ring a doorbell and ascend in an old hand-cranked elevator to the sixth floor. The doors open directly into the loft where the artist Rosemarie Castoro lived and worked for over fifty years, and therefore, directly into the exhibit—an extraordinary, swift passage from one cultural iteration of a city’s neighborhood to another.

It was a fitting entrée to an artist who staged pieces in the streets of Manhattan, and whose studio was a backdrop for performances and architectural interventions. One of the few women associated with Minimalism, Castoro was a painter, sculptor, dancer, installation artist, and Conceptual poet. The breadth of her production is astonishing, its singularity even more so. Broadway 1602 organized “Loft Show” as part of its Outdoors projects—a smart way to host remote exhibitions as the gallery searches for a new permanent home. The show was also a memorial of sorts; Castoro passed away suddenly in May at the age of seventy-five. To visit the exhibition was to have the privileged intimacy of walking through her oeuvre’s site of origin and experimentation.

This was not your typical Minimalist display. There’s work everywhere: above the elevator, propped on the radiator, hanging from a nail on the wall, installed around the skylight, and, if you’re lucky enough to find it, in the back stairwell. The exhibition hinted at the possibility of numerous future focused shows contained like a matryoshka doll within its abundance. A corner of the loft was dominated by the wall-scale painting Grey Gold Interference, 1965, and the freestanding wall piece Spine on its Side, 1970, made of panels covered in graphite, thickened gesso, and marble dust, applied with a broom—a performative coda to AbEx. Vitrines documented events (including many incorporating this wall) and political engagements. Castoro’s hard-won involvement in Art Workers’ Coalition meetings (they were at first limited to men) was bolstered by an artistic circle illustrated by a wonderful self-timer-Polaroid photograph, like a latter-day Rembrandt guild scene, of a circle of artists gathered in 1969 in her loft, including her then husband Carl Andre, Lawrence Weiner, Robert Smithson, Sol LeWitt, and Jan Dibbets, among others.

A show in situ brings countless objects not on the extensive checklist into its orbit: binders of research and press clippings, books, a welding helmet and argon gas regulator, saws and screws, varnishes stuffed into a clementine crate. What emerged from all this ephemera was the piercing efficacy and activation of the line throughout Castoro’s practice, whether a sentence from her Conceptual journal, or a “Cracking” piece in which space and bodies are delineated in silver tape, or the series of paintings whose bright colors dynamically split the graphic armature of the letter Y. Among my favorite works were small, bound stainless-steel-wire-and-plaster constructions from the mid-1970s, made when Castoro mysteriously said that she imagined herself “as a giant caught in a building.” In Two Walls Wired, 1976, wire lines conjoin, and seem to grow from, white plaster. The marriage of hirsute tangle and abstract sparseness has a feral quality, undeniably sexual and electric.

The exceptional access of the show brought to mind LeWitt’s Autobiography, a photobook from 1980 in which the artist documented every square foot of his studio living space and assembled the hundreds of photos into a syncopated score of routine creative life: plants, pots, toothbrush, show announcements, floorboards, pencils, artworks. LeWitt made another appearance in “Loft Show,” in the form of the fascinating Portrait of Sol LeWitt with Donor and Friends—Oct 3, 1968, part of Castoro’s “Inventory” series, 1966–68, of drawings and paintings composed according to a complex notational system in which she tracked and rated emotional interactions throughout the day, awarding them all numeric values that were then plotted as elegant, architectural lines that cross, lean, and fall in irregular intervals along a horizontal axis. The scientific exactitude yields mystery as much as it does data. One of the few directly vertical lines, slicing through nine others that topple left, is labeled ARBITRARY CUT: a fitting encapsulation of this show’s own core sampling of an artist’s impressive practice—an incomplete, graceful measure.

Prudence Peiffer