International Sculpture Center
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Sculpture cover

May 2014
Vol. 33 No. 4

A publication of the
International Sculpture Center

This selection of shows has been curated by Sculpture magazine editorial staff and includes just a few of the great shows around the world.

Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore: Sterling Ruby
Through June 15, 2014
Ruby’s work alternates between fluid and static, minimal and expressionistic, pristine and defaced. Using a range of media, including video, collage, ceramics, and fiber, he explores the formal qualities of repression and containment. This exhibition showcases his provocative soft sculptures—enormous vampiric maws crafted from red, white, and blue fabric. Immersed in formal codes and gestures that signal transgression and transference—phenomena with social and psychological, physical and emotional dimensions—these alternately disturbing and seductive works threaten to ingest everything within reach. Subtle (or not so subtle) critiques of oppressive power structures, reductive forms subsume pernicious dichotomies into singular, malleable entities that lock individual impulse and mechanized control, American domination and decline, and liberation and repression into a stalemated embrace.
Web site

Sterling Ruby, Double Vampire 14..
Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle Warsaw: Martha Rosler
Through May 18, 2014
In Guide for the Perplexed: How to Succeed in the New Poland, Rosler brings her particular brand of sociopolitical activism to a specific set of problems. Approaching common concerns through the prism of everyday life, she has spent more than 40 years honing a three-part strategy of exhibitions, critical discussions, and educational programs to advance feminist, anti-war, and social/economic interests. Extending her recent work with Occupy Wall Street, this new participatory project centers on dialogues, performances, and town hall-style public meetings facilitated by activists, educators, and experts—all held in and around kiosks designed by Rosler and Centrala. Topics include Gender, or How to be a woman in the new Poland; Housing; Labor; Debt; How to be an artist in the new Poland; Environment and Industry; and What should be placed inside the new Jewish museum. Programs continue for the duration of the show, and visitors are encouraged to post comments and challenges to the status quo on a public “Democracy Wall.”
Web site

Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen.

Grand Palais, Paris: Monumenta 2014: Ilya and Emilia Kabakov
Through June 22, 2014
The Kabakovs finally have a workspace that rivals their imaginative vision in scale and ambition, and they are bringing more than just an installation to the Grand Palais’ cavernous, 145,000-square-foot expanse. Emphasizing experience rather than form, The Strange City asks visitors to “slow down in your real life, to call on your emotions, on your senses, and on your memories.” Drawing on references as diverse as Renaissance art and architecture, Romanticism, and modern science, eight distinct zones—each a world unto itself—lead visitors through an epic tale of human aspirations both earthly and metaphysical. Like all of the Kabakovs’ projects, this fantastic ideal city functions as a manifestation of social institutions (and other botched or useless human projects), as well as a container in which creativity can take flight. Though the artists don’t believe that art can influence politics, they firmly maintain that it can change the “way we think, we dream, and we act.”
Web Site

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, study for La Coupole.
Guggenheim Bilbao, Bilbao: Ernesto Neto
Through May 18, 2014
Neto describes his experiential, sensual installations as representations of the body’s landscape from within, encouraging viewers to interact with and physically engage these strange environments by feeling, smelling, and touching, as well as looking. “The Body that Carries Me,” a retrospective developed in close collaboration with the artist, features more than 50 sense-provoking works from the 1990s to the present, many employing his signature combination of enveloping fabric chambers and dizzying aromatics and most reconfigured for Frank Gehry’s wavy, organic spaces. As the show’s six sections move from the ground to the air, spice-filled stalactites and gravity-defying crocheted passageways lead to otherworldly aeries of adventure and wonder. Poetic worlds of delight, these chambers are also refuges in which thinking stops, where, as Neto says, life can be directly inhaled and the body can relax into nature.
Web site

Ernesto Neto, Forest Skye
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC: Santiago Sierra
Through May 18, 2014
Sierra’s radical and poetic statements focus on economic and power relations, especially repetitive routines and the exchange value of labor. Though critics accuse him of abusing misery, his socially engaged works shed a blinding light on accepted “norms” of inequality and entitlement. This show focuses on Los Encargados (Those in Charge), a 2012 collaboration with Jorge Galindo that harks back to their rebellious student days. The film documents a guerrilla action staged along Madrid’s Gran Via in which the artists organized a motorcade of seven black Mercedes sedans, each topped with an upended poster of King Juan Carlos I or one of the country’s six post-Franco prime ministers. An unmistakeable veto of ineffectual government policies in the wake of Spain’s economic downturn and a gesture of solidarity with a suffering populace, the upside-down portraits also make a pointed allusion to the costly and controversial official portrait of the prime minister commissioned at the height of the crisis. Though the action plays out in a specific street, resonating with its historic past, and addresses a specific Spanish situation, the message (underscored by a soundtrack playing “Warszawianka,” the Polish workers anthem adopted by populist movements worldwide) is universal: the crooks in charge need watching.
Web site

Santiago Sierra and Jorge Galindo, Los Encargados..
Institute of Contemporary Arts, London: Tauba Auerbach
Through June 15, 2014
Named for Martin Gardner’s perennially popular exploration of symmetry and asymmetry in culture, science, and the wider universe, Auerbach’s “The New Ambidextrous Universe” moves beyond what we see to an inquiry of how we see it. Replacing objects with enigmas, the large-scale wooden floor sculptures in her new series bend and warp materiality into a mirror image of itself. Like the science on which they’re based (moving from biology to cosmology to physics), these intricate works begin in rational observation and end in irrational (and beautiful) mystery, unfolding into endless creative variations on a single theme while pushing and pulling form to the limits of possibility.
Web site

Tauba Auerbach, The New Ambidextrous Universe I.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art/Charles White Elementary School, Los Angeles: Kaz Oshiro
Through June 7, 2014
Oshiro is best known for high-fidelity, full-size replicas of everyday objects—microwaves, dumpsters, and file cabinets, among other commonplace items. Though many of his works masquerade as readymades, they are, in fact, deliberate constructions made from little more than canvas. By using the materials of painting to fabricate sculpture, he adds a new dimension to tromp l’oeil trickery while further blurring the line between illusion and reality. As part of LACMA’s ongoing engagement with the Los Angeles community, Oshiro has installed this multi-part exhibition at the museum’s satellite gallery in the Charles White Elementary School. “Chasing Ghosts” juxtaposes new works, objects chosen by the artist from the museum’s collection, and a collaborative project created in conjunction with students at the school.
Web site

Kaz Oshiro, Dumpster (Yellow with Blue Swoosh).
Magasin 3, Stockholm Konsthall, Stockholm: Siobhán Hapaska
Through June 8, 2014
Hapaska’s immaculately crafted, smoothly elusive sculptures resonate with not-quite-graspable implications. Combining disjointed images, materials, and narrative fragments, her ambiguous and charismatic works seem to tackle life and death, nature and artifice, and threat and safety; but they also suffer from “cultural amnesia” and deny clear reading. Whether executed in slickly synthetic or ruggedly natural materials, these sculptural puzzles share a vision of displacement, alluding to the irreversibility of progress and the sadness inherent in utopianism. Their urbanity and obscurantism might appear as anti-naturalism, but the anxieties to be kept at bay do not originate in the natural world—they arise, instead, from our restless yearning for forward momentum, our fascination with a twisted technological sublime, and our desire to escape beyond the world as we know it. In “Otherworldly,” Annika von Hausswolff, Anish Kapoor, Charles Long, Pipilotti Rist, and Per B Sundberg offer similar riddles directed at perception as a creative process. Presenting the strange and unanticipated, their works reject clear reference in favor of imaginative stimula­­tion, both conscious and unconscious, conjuring other worlds of phenomenological possibility unmediated by theory, history, or preconceived reality.
Web site

Siobhán Hapaska, view of installation.
Malmö Konsthall, Malmö, Sweden: Lars Englund
Through June 6, 2014

Straddling Minimalism and Constructivism, Englund’s sculptures establish intricate interactions between object and surrounding space, as form expands into an entity without beginning or end. From his early experiments in rubber, plastics, carbon fiber, and concrete through more recent works in spring steel, apparent symmetry is defied by inconsistencies that skew expected proportions and allow dynamic flow. Though partially dematerialized, his work still gravitates toward sculpture’s perennial concerns—surface, volume, stillness, and movement—channeling these formal elements into an exploration that moves beyond the solid to embrace the void.
Web site

Lars Englund, Borderline.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux
Through May 26, 2014

Rejecting Baudelaire’s dismissive judgment of 19th-century French sculpture, “The Passions of Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux” sets out to prove that such work is anything but “boring.” From the sensationalist title to a press release that raises an exceptional talent to the status of a “tormented sculptor,” the Met seems hell-bent on generating a buzz worthy of today’s tell-all tabloid mentality—violent mood swings, an abused wife, darkness, and despair. Overwrought framing aside, this exhibition of 160 works (the first devoted to the artist in 38 years) still offers the opportunity for serious critical reassessment, revealing a versatile artist of extraordinary stylistic flexiblity, a sculptor who could channel Watteau in ravishing portraits of Second Empire celebrities and The Dance (his “pornographic” commission for the Paris Opéra) and then veer off into a Sturm-und-Drang fusion of late medieval expressionism, Early Renaissance realism, and High Renaissance/Mannerist anatomical bravura in the tragic masterpiece Ugolino and His Sons (the exhibition’s marketing icon). No run-of-the-mill academic sculptor, Carpeaux could knock Rodin off his pedestal as the progenitor of modern sculpture, modern scandal, and modern angst. But to call his style shifts “extreme” (like aberrant mood swings) belittles their strategic deployment in conjunction with subject matter. Such decisions reveal more than a string of manic-depressive episodes in a troubled life, though the separation of work and biography wouldn’t sell as well.
Web site

Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Ugolino and His Sons
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Lucas Samaras
Through June 1, 2014
A compulsively productive sculptor, photographer, painter, filmmaker, and writer, Samaras is a performer at heart (he entered the New York scene as a participant in the Happenings orchestrated by Allan Kaprow, Robert Whitman, and Claes Oldenburg). Since the late 1950s, he has enacted himself as subject, using self-representation to tap a bottomless Pandora’s box of taboos, from sexuality and terror to transformation and mortality. “Offerings from a Restless Soul,” which includes more than 60 works in an installation designed in part by Samaras, offers a complete (and sometimes embarrassing) portrait of the artist, from innovative photographic experiments and recent computer-generated imagery to his mixed-media boxes. These colorfully painted and encrusted Freudian constructions conceal a plethora of mundane and exotic objects (beads, pins, shells, mirrors, and stuffed birds) in their tiny compartments and hidden drawers—talismanic ingredients holding the key to a richly complex psychic world.
Web site

Lucas Samaras, Untitled (Spoon).
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth: Rirkrit Tiravanija
Through June 1, 2014
In the mid-’90s, Tiravanija’s work became synonymous with Nicolas Bourriaud’s relational aesthetics, which emphasizes the social role and function of art, how it influences, and is influenced by, interpersonal communication and interactions in the public sphere. Cooking Thai food (his grandmother was a TV chef), serving it to visitors, and providing written recipes as wall texts became his primary method to bring people together and influence human interaction. Later projects, including constructed environments in which guests can read or listen to music and T-shirt factories, expand on this concept, continually reducing the distance between artwork and viewer. With their emphasis on everyday, communal actions, such initiatives recall Beuys’s social sculpture and subscribe to the same belief in art’s transformative potential, though of late, Tiravanija has directed these exchanges more overtly: recent works—fear eats the soul, police the police, and who if not we should at least try to imagine the future, again—take a firm stance on recent events and point catalytic action in a clear direction.
Web site

Rirkrit Tiravanija, untitled 2011 (police the police)

Musée d’Art Modern, Luxembourg: Lee Bul
Through June 9, 2014
Lee approaches the human form not just as individual body, but also as social entity. Expanding the idea of the physical, her work embraces new technologies and redraws the frontiers of human existence. “Monsters” and “cyborgs” conflate reality, science, and fiction, deliberately leaving their borders open to interpretation. Her recent sculptures and installations have become more ambitious in scope, exploring a global history of humanity in which recognizable human form is replaced by human products and achievements. This quasi-retrospective—including a new site-specific installation—reveals a progressively expansive vision that now spreads to encompass transfigurations of the built environment and spatial perception. Within these sensuous and darkly seductive spaces of glittering ruin, human desire and ambition give rise to a realm of disintegrating utopian aspirations.
Web site

Lee Bul, Souterrain.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam: Alexandra Bircken
Through June 1, 2014
Originally trained in fashion at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, Bircken retains a designer’s sensibility in her appreciation of tactile qualities and her associative abilities. Taking a sensuous and eclectic approach to materials, she creates what might in other hands be dissonant combinations of branches, stones, wool, hair, tights, and found objects—all coalescing in hybrid assemblages that diffuse the singular object into a network of clustered relationships and interactions. The individual sculptural points themselves subvert expectations, playing with stereotypical dichotomies (male versus female, artisanal versus mechanical, hard versus soft, minimal versus ornamental), categories of object (motorcycle, horse, human body), and the symbolisms assigned to those objects.
Web site

Alexandra Bircken, Scheibentorso.

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