This group exhibition, spread across a variety of media, samples the infinite methods and materials of art making. The show's title makes this process sound more mystical than it often really is, but the works themselves are engaging enough to rise above the imprecision of their billing. In short, the exhibition unites older work with current practices to showcase objects that for the most part reveal rather than conceal their method of construction. As a result, most of the work appears fresh, even if 40 years old.
One of the most exciting works in the show is a mirrored mosaic wall piece by Monir Farmanfarmaian, a duo of abstractly arranged silver and green circles of glass. The back story behind Farmanfarmaian's practice — not evident in this glitzy work — is almost as multi-faceted as her favored materials. The 89-year-old studied art in New York beginning in the 1940s, working as a fashion illustrator and befriending a host of New York artists before returning to Iran and going on to represent her country in the 1958 Venice Biennale. She left again following the Islamic Revolution of 1979, but returned to Teheran in 2000 to resume her practice there.
Rounding out the connections between the two sections of the gallery, a framed Buckminster Fuller piece echoes Weiwei's sphere perfectly. Yoshitomo Saito's delicate installation of bronze tree buds sprouting from the wall mimics the organic growths in Utterback's projection.
Pierre Cordier, inventor of the chemigam, employs a laundry list of materials. Varnish, wax, glue, oil, egg, syrup and gelatin silver bromide are only some of the elements that coalesce in his camera-less, photogram-like works. The results, seen in a trio of small prints (all from 1972), resemble microscopic views of living organisms infused with geometric forms. You can listen to the artist describe the method by which all this occurs and still not come close to penetrating the mystery of it. By contrast, Andy Goldsworthy’s wall piece Circle, Flame Finished, Broken Pavers Leftover from the de Young Museum (2005) appears straightforward: Cracks form a semi-perfect circle in a tight grouping of sandstone blocks. But just how does one force cracks into a controlled shape? How much heat and pressure does it take? Are there special tools or chemicals employed? Here, and in Cordier’s pieces, the artist remains a magician of sorts, wielding techniques that are not easily discerned.
In all, Poetics of Construction is an excellent group show that brings together diverse works to make new connections while retaining a common thread. It's not groundbreaking in any way, but it offers enlightenment to anyone seeking material inspiration.