New York

View of “Sonya Blesofsky,” 2019.

View of “Sonya Blesofsky,” 2019.

Sonya Blesofsky

Spencer Brownstone Gallery

After Sonya Blesofsky’s show at Spencer Brownstone Gallery closed, the gallery’s walls had to be reconstructed. The bricks, concrete blocks, two-by-fours, heating ducts, electrical outlets, and insulation that had been temporarily revealed through cutouts in the Sheetrock and scraped-away paint were entombed once more. In 1933, the current site of the gallery was just a yard appended to the address of 172 Suffolk Street and zoned for commercial use: “monumental works and showroom,” according to a legal certificate. In 1945, the lot’s use was clarified for the “display and sales of monumental stones.” This context resonated with the artist’s latest body of work, in which she deconstructs parts of her exhibition spaces in order to unearth older architectural features. She also creates sculptures from scraps collected from buildings being renovated nearby. Whether or not her endeavors are successful seems contingent on the significance of the locale.

Blesofsky’s lustrous graphite-on-paper piece Void: Drawing for 26th Street Doorway, 2013, alluded to “buildings with personal significance to the artist.” That same year, Relic: Pressed Tin Ceiling memorialized the restoration of her neighbor’s apartment. In other shows, the artist seemed more detached from the space, citing a broad interest in gentrification and urban change, but this presentation invited a more specific connection between the monumental and the personal; the commercial showroom that preceded the gallery apparently focused on selling headstones. Blesofsky’s improvised thresholds and “dead ends” could therefore be read as references to memory and mortality. Two of the four freestanding sculptures in the space (Monument [Doorway] and Monument [Mantelpiece], both 2018) were portals made from segments of old moldings, wood scraps, and other found materials. Outside, from the gallery’s gravel courtyard, beckoned Monument (Tripartite Arch), 2018, a trio of connected archways nearly ten feet tall. The visitor passing under these structures was courting bad luck: Blesofsky’s sculptures were weathered and appeared to be precariously tacked together.

A series of “windows,” spaced evenly along the left wall, were little more than rough cutouts revealing the older, original wall behind. Their size and location were determined according to those of the “real” windows that once occupied the far side of the same wall, which Blesofsky revealed by simply stripping the white paint from the concrete blocks that now fill the apertures, and which became part of the gallery’s courtyard. These liminal spaces invoked a ghostly, melancholic sense of depth and invited speculations on the building’s other possible secrets, as if the artist were exorcising the space.

On the facing wall hung an elegant row of plaster arcs resembling moldings, which the artist also created in situ using a length of wood shaped like a T that could be rotated on a nail to model the wet plaster into graceful arcs. This tool was left in the space, a kind of upside-down cross, in the show’s most explicit gesture toward spirituality. The imperfections of these pale, rainbow-like forms conceded their lack of function while also hinting at the potential for new apertures or afterlives. The titles of these windows and plaster arcs (such as Fenestration 1 [Sill], Fenestration 1 [Brick Window], and Fenestration 2 a, all 2018)—were revealing, as fenestration describes the placements of doors and windows within a structure as well as a medical operation performed on bone. Through this lens, Blesofsky’s process could be seen as transmutating architectural space into a body, and that body, after a kind of death, into a monument. But unlike a headstone, her monuments are conscious of their transience, constructed to remember, and to then be eroded by time and the elements.