MARK DI SUVEROby David Rhodes
PAULA COOPER GALLERY | JANUARY 6 – FEBRUARY 3, 2018
Identification between body and things is of central importance to Mark di Suvero’s sculpture and other works. After breaking his back in an accident in 1960 (prior to an exhibition at the Green Gallery) it was no longer an option to physically maneuver large sections of found timber into place as he had been doing, so di Suvero adapted, and elected instead to employ machinery operated himself to assist in constructing large-scale sculpture mostly from salvaged metal. In this exhibition the two large-scale steel sculptures invite participation from the viewer and reject the experiential notion of sculpture as static object.
Movement here is key—whether the viewer’s own perambulation or the sculpture’s slight shifts and tilts. Alcuna Luna (1994) is over seven feet in height; two rust colored steel discs are connected by a white steel tube upon which a symmetrical, curved, and flowing shape of cut stainless steel balances, free to rotate on its axis. At 28 feet long and 12 feet high, Eppur si Muove (2014-2017) is monumental in size and playful in appearance. A strip of cut stainless steel coils around a stainless steel tube that at either end hooks onto white painted steel supporting columns, each splay outward for stability close to the floor. The coiling metal could be physically moved—the structure is like a giant spit or toy waiting to be used—transformation is latent, pending. Interaction and change are real and consistent aspects of di Suvero’s kinetic approach to sculpture. Two small sculptures, one cast in titanium, the other in bronze, and formed of interlocking parts, can be reassembled in many configurations—like versatile puzzles that cannot be conclusively solved.
The three slide drawings presented can be moved horizontally along a length of wood attached to the wall, and in so doing reconfigure the spliced work on paper contained within the frames. The drawings are from 1986, 2006, and 2014, and are all made with ink and marker pens. They share the same energy and invention—quick-moving and restless—nothing is inert for long in di Suvero’s work. Mobility is everywhere, through small scale to large, and across different media.
It is usual to think of drawing and painting as still, but sometimes it becomes apparent that they are as time based. This is because there is a constant movement in perception over duration, and a changing of focus, and position—for any viewer. As Ergo (2016) incorporates phosphorescent paint, even in darkness the painting isn’t passive. Like the other painting here, Emergency Medical Services (c.1978)—the earliest work in the exhibition—bright color and dynamic marks burst and settle in clusters.
Di Suvero believes that culture carries our ideas, and that it is vital for society, contributing to our individual and collective wellbeing. His philosophy is inclusive and generous, from his early involvement with Park Place Gallery (and Paula Cooper, who worked there), a gallery for which integrity about art making and its dissemination was a guiding principle, rather than simply presenting product for profit—a tradition the artist and gallerist continue. Reaching beyond the gallery and into the community, di Suvero established the present day Socrates Sculpture Park in 1986 in Astoria, Queens. At each level of experience, public or private, di Suvero wants art and people to connect. He has said artists can “Scatter our works like seeds so that other things can grow,” which is a very positive take on the current global distribution of art works across national boundaries.
DAVID RHODES is a New York-based artist and writer, originally from Manchester, UK. He has published reviews in the Brooklyn Rail, Artforum, and Artcritical, among other publications.