This group show features the work of 15 sculptors who, working with materials as varied as nails, thread, books, clay and scrap wood and tree limbs, arouse tactile curiosities, perceptual conundrums and feelings of genuine poignancy – all under the simple, but effective rubric of material invention.
Lisa Kokin, an artist who “sculpts” with a needle and thread, contributes two notable works. Piecework (2005), whose title refers to industrial sewing for which workers are paid a piece rate, literally strings together buttons and found objects, such as springs and miniature doll bodies to form a very abstract portrait her grandmother. It’s an image laden with personal history and allusions to gender and class and to what someone of your grandfather’s generation might have called “handiwork.”
But in Kokin’s case that term is hardly a pejorative. Take Primary (2012), in which the figures of an adult and a child are woven repeatedly into a transparent, mandala-shaped skein. Its complexity and fragility could serve as a template for how ideas about memory and loss can be meaningfully invested in a work of art. Gyöngy Laky builds precisely engineered sculptures from twigs and branches that spell out words, phrases and symbols, reflecting her interest in architecture, design, geopolitics, eco-activism, language and nature. Fragile Password (2012), whose component pieces spell out the word “Yes”, is a fine example. The wall-mounted piece reads like an aerial photograph of a lopsided city, a labyrinthine maze into which we are inexorably pulled. That visual seduction, however, yields only questions, the most obvious being: what, exactly, is being affirmed?
While largely populated by wood and steel, Material Matters also includes sculpture made of less sturdy substances. Sibylle Peretti and her sometime collaborator, Stephen Paul Day, for example, use glass and napkins to explore opposing impulses. The young figures in Peretti’s Wall of Tears (2009) show childhood as a battleground of competing physical and emotional drives, subject to intense observation and correction. For Suicide Notes 9 and 3 (2012), Peretti, who works with Day under the name Club S & S, join distressed figures and short suicide notes in 12 enigmatic panels. Such communications generally reveal why a person chose to end their life and offer, one would hope, some measure of closure for the survivors. Peretti and Day’s notes do not, and reading them with that expectation only produces frustration. And yet, not knowing whether these tales, beautifully realized in word and image, are true or fabricated stirred thoughts that lingered.