23 No. 7
publication of the International Sculpture Center
Williamsburg Art and Historical Center
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Kisch, Bell #1, 2001, 124 x 35 x 35 in., stainless steel.
Having just closed
an immense, exhilarating, exhausting show of surrealist, fantastic,
and visionary art that inspired almost as much denunciation as delight
(and that included a costume ball, an over-the-top fashion show,
and a film series), the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center gave itself
a well-deserved breather. Its subsequent show, Mercurial,
featured only four artists (instead of over 400) whose work would fit
well into any adventurous contemporary gallery.
Kawata, Rain Drop, 2003, chained safety pins, 12 ft diameter.
Photo by Mark Ferguson
Rie Hachiyanagi created
an installation, Tears, that filled a side room on the second floor. Drawing
on the license of a non-native speaker, she puns on the two meanings of
tearssalty eye excretions and ripsbreaking through
the barrier that native speakers erect between these unrelated designations
to avoid obvious confusions. Her installation consisted of a space filled
with slivers of dollar bills hanging from draped cloth. The slivers reached
to within two or three feet of the floor, so one walked through them,
parting them like a continuous but exquisitely rarefied bead curtain.
At first, one might have thought that she was representing a form of rain
(for which tears constitute a rather commonplace metaphor) with the twisting
chiaroscuro of the material. But when viewers realized what the material
actually was, they experienced a lacerating shock. For those friends in
their wallets or purses had been transformed with excruciatingly delicate
irony, in a deliberate gesture of wastage, into a solid environment, a
virtual weather condition, like an economic invasion or a bombing raid.
In the main second-floor gallery, curator Yuko Nii installed the work
of three artists working in metal. Daniel Rothbart used welded aluminum
to create a series of provocative biomorphic forms that include stag horn
coral-like branchings, webbings, immense worm-like segmentations, a coil
and line of hookings, and a curious hanging device reminiscent of a miniature
childs swing, but with variously shaped metal bulbs hanging from
it. He calls this collection his urban botany, expressing
organic themes through inanimate building materials. Theres a very
refined humor in Rothbarts contrast between material and theme.
Tamiko Kawata builds virtual cosmologies out of safety pins and other
commonplace materials. Viewers approached a 15-foot-diameter swirling
pattern on the floor, sensing something galactic in the glistening whirl.
That the work consisted entirely of linked safety pins came as a revelation.
There is a great deal of art based on obsessiveness with materials nowadays,
grandiose works fabricated by endlessly repeating the same constructive
act. Kawata has given her capacity for this kind of work a striking metaphysical
resonance: the banality of her materials contrasts strongly with the themes
of her overall forms, and viewers are led to reflect that the universe
may be constructed along similar lines.
Finally, Gloria Kisch installed a series called Bells: chains
of stainless steel bells, vaguely oriental bells, Tyrolian cowbells, and
so forth, shish-kebabbed like immense wind chimes, hanging on chains from
the ceiling, and interlarded with other symmetrical metal shapes. The
bells had an appealing momentousness, asserting their sensuous curves
and metallic gleams with a boldness that offered a satisfying balance
to the minute obsessiveness of Kawata and Hachiyanagi and the aspiring
branchings of Rothbart.
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