SARAH RAPSON Transcendental Materialism


 “Danger is great joy, night is bright as fire.”

–Marianne Faithfull

Installation View
Installation View

It all comes down to faith. “There has always been a devotional cast to Ms. Rapson’s art” (Holland Cotter). Caught kissing on top of a grave, 16th century Spain’s Luis de Gongora compelled the 14-line severity of the baroque sonnet to encompass both diamonds and doom. Schematically cynical 20th century Neo-Concrete language poetries then stripped love’s luxury down to bald lexies and weak-kneed tendentious texts. Transmuting math through scale, sculptor Tony Smith suffused apparently bare base metals to fuse new humanist Minimalisms. Recent sexist Google Dada represents but a frat house attempt to retrofit past masters in pale revivals glibly repurposed to fail, yet Kazimir Malevich hid the future’s god in just one strict black box.
Productive reduction. On site Sarah Rapson’s paintings string out like headstones in a gap-toothed rural bone yard. Bible-black and battleship gray; they inhibit choice, to unlimit the core. Distressed, yes, but not like Diesel jeans, like Rossetti’s tresses, her work hangs rich with rags. For, reserve is not withholding: it’s knowing where to stop. Rigor is passion. Refusal? Revolution. And rectitude: its raw, rude flag. Spirit war. You want cutting edge? By way of keeping up on current events, Rapson reads John Keats.

Though she nods to the now through newsprint. Comments on commerce, consumables, and Fine Art’s Commendatores paper her understated, controversial canvases, where cash-counts from Christies frame kudos to “gray” greats such as Agnes Martin or Jasper Johns. The look is less info than punk. While Rapson won’t splay stray art marks across these chalky paintings, she’s not gun-shy about cheeky remarks

Starring in her seven films, Rapson wears a wig. Scrutiny rewards. She adds wigs too (diminutive inks) to wire photos upholstering her “New York Times Art Section Sutras. “Anagrams = Ars Magna. Deictic, these minor acts of uncivil disobedience shake out between teen grafitti’s ludic insolence, and erudite ekphrasis.

Fire suicides. If night and day were our first thoughts, we muse at ashen evening. The resignation and resolve of Rapson’s burnt Buddhist “banners” render darkness visible, then irradiate this gallery’s walls with a reigning hope recalling Rothko’s Chapel or the Black Paintings of Goya (c.f. “Dog on a Leash,” 1820) in his Deaf Man’s Villa.

There’s nothing wrong with this art. British, today Rapson resides beside the precipitous French Lieutenant’s Woman’s sea cliffs of Thomas Hardy’s Dorset, dramatized in her somber action film Eastcliff (2005) also shown at Zürcher. Formerly, while living in New York, she was represented by Cohan Leslie and Brown and was Richard Prince’s assistant.

Finally, not to be overlooked, Studio Zürcher, once Joel Shapiro’s studio, retains Shapiro’s work-in-progress hieroglyphs penciled on a fluted column.


Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle is an American poet and art critic. He lives in Paris and New York City.


SEPT 2010

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