Martha Clippinger, "Reflection," 2010, acrylic on wood,
13 3/4" × 7 3/4" × 1 1/2". Courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery.

Clippinger’s small assemblages of found slats and irregular scraps of wood are painted with geometric shapes that sometimes have ideas of their own. Mostly no more than one foot in their longest dimension, these objects conjoin a funky, off-kilter facture with a canny sense of design. The interplay of rudimentary execution and sophisticated eye makes for humorous and whimsical effects, which are enhanced by the placement of the pieces. Works are installed, variously, at eye level, on the floor, or up in a corner of the room, so that the whole interior space is engaged. “Delusion” (2010) comprises a succession of five vertical, extruded triangular wood slats affixed to a sheet of gray plywood, which is cut to occupy only part of the rectangle established by the verticals. This gray surface reads as negative space between the two circular shapes formed where the plywood has been cut away to reveal the wall. The overall effect is of a figure/ground ambiguity, held in check by the imperfection of the salvaged materials. Here, Clippinger’s intimacy, wit, and insouciance bring to mind the work of Richard Tuttle. She responds to the orthodoxy of modernist abstraction by recasting it as everyday play with common materials.

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Robert Berlind