Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos—Unpacking the Mind-Attic

Vtirines. Photo: Benoit Pailley
The experience of walking through Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos, at the New Museum feels like I'd imagine it would be to walk through the artist's studio or attic. Her own work is interspersed with that of artists who influenced her, or that she admires, with a surprising emphasis on highly academic naturalists' rendering of flora and fauna, some dating back to 1705. This supporting work in a way tells us more about Trockel than her own artwork, which can be opaque and mysterious. The sum effect of the collection and the installation is haunting and provocative.

Some Trockel knitted pieces sous crab. Photo: Benoit Pailley
Trockel's yarn works in this exhibition are fastidious. Yarns of different colors are stretched horizontally or vertically—wooly-textured minimalist abstractions. There are several stunning, large-scale knit pieces of dark blues, their purl sides showing rebelliously. A stack of knitted samples with graphic designs (interestingly, not represented in the show otherwise) sits in a plexi cube with a giant crab on top. It is outdone by a giant (once 27.5 pound) lobster carapace that sits near a painted triptych by the orangutan Tilda, arranged by Trockel as Less sauvage than others. A corner room, tiled in bathroom white, contains an inverted fake palm tree and a delightful sculpture —a birdcage containing fake birds that move unexpectedly via hidden mechanisms.

As neat and tidy as the yarn pieces are, her sculptures are generally rough, often indiscernible, glazed cast shapes evoking chunks of meat or architectural elements, or Fluxus-style agglomerations of objects into other objects. Some large plexi vitrines, resembling natural museum dioramas, contain assemblages of her sculptures and other objects that look randomly trapped. Some of Morton Bartlett's ballerina sculptures from the 1950s are included. The methodology seems to be the beacon of her curious taste. 

Curating is fun... in a Trockel vitrine. Photo: Benoit Pailley
Tiny, pastel-hued glass impressions of sea creatures by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka from the 1800s are among the treasures by the supporting cast of artists, as are botanical paintings by an anonymous artist on a Royal Botanical Expedition to New Granada around the turn of the 18th century—sharply elegant renderings of plants against typographical-looking vertical lines. Found object bird sculptures by James Castle and a collection of densely scribed, handmade books by Manuel Montalvo are fascinating inclusions. And a group of Judith Scott's densely layered or biomorphic yarn sculptures from the 80s/90s parallel Trockel's own favored media.

Organized by Trockel and Lynne Cook for the Reina Sofia, it's a rewarding look at this German artist who has received little exposure in the US, but whose fascinating, jammed-attic mind is unpacked a bit in this exhibition, which runs through January 20, 2013. 

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