Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chelsea—Big Bouncy Boots and Ghosts

Nancy Davidson kicks up her heels at Cuningham Gallery
Nancy Davidson, at Betty Cuningham Gallery, Dustup (through Oct 6), has created sculptures, either inflatable or just pneumatic-looking, with cowboy-themed details. They look like Thanksgiving Day parade floats made by a mad Texas scientist—eye-catching colors, big round shapes, cowgirl boots, and tassels. Needless to say, they're a great deal of fun, and their scale, while large, is contained enough to be relatable. And if there's one thing that's emblematic of the USA, it's cowgirl boots. Am I right?

Diana Al-Hadid, Divided Line, 2012

It's rare to come across a completely unfamiliar artistic technique, but Diana Al-Hadid's exhibition at Marianne Boesky Gallery, The Vanishing Point (through Oct 20), is such a discovery. The subject matter of her sculptures and installations can refer to historical moments and architectural monuments such as Brueghel's Tower of Babel and the minotaur's maze. But despite such potentially powerful allegories, it's the visceral effect of what stands before you in the gallery that haunts. In some works, it looks like buckets of paint spilled, dripped down, and dried, and the box or wall underneath was removed. In Antonym, the shell of a torso, like the skin of a snake, sits atop such a negated form. Human are so much more transient than architecture, which endures.

Divided Line occupies one wall. A skeletal external web sandwiches emptiness; if you back up a little and let your eyes wander, a tableau of figures comes into fuzzy focus. (I actually didn't see this while I was in the gallery; it's visible in the installation shots here).  It feels a bit like stalagmites in a cave. Al-Hadid states that she is exploring two-dimensional perspective through a 3D expression, although this didn't read clearly to me. But what resonates is the perceived and actual tension of the absent core and present shell.

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