New Yorkanonymous gallery
June 30 – August 21, 2021
Perambulating around the two floating shelving units hung from the ceiling for 100 Sculptures at anonymous gallery, you have something of the sense of wonder that must have invigorated Darwin, fresh off the HMS Beagle, wandering around and investigating the sometimes familiar, but often alien, species of the Galápagos. Todd von Ammon and the gallery have together curated a menagerie of form: these objects may illustrate the history of sculpture, they certainly depict its various categories and typologies, and all are very small. They veer from the figurative to the abstract, the absurd and surreal to the conceptual and symbolic.
Faces and body parts in particular immediately imprint themselves on our perception. B.Thom Stevenson’s My Eyes Are Up Here (2018) is the simplest rendering of a face—two circles punched in a larger circle of steel emerging from a shallow tray, while Kristin Reger’s Lurch (2018) confronts us with a glossy gray and pink stoneware tongue, and Nevine Mahmoud’s Tutti Glass (2018) takes the form of a prone glass breast. Also in ceramic, Hugo Montoya has created a hybrid of a phallus and woman’s torso in Venus Penis (2018), an erotic vessel bearing a handle. The motivation to make these smaller objects into practical tools as well seems logical: littler things tend to inhabit our space more intimately, and sitting on our shelves and bureau tops, they can often serve a dual purpose. Some of the 100 sculptures displayed here, however, emerge from the opposite end of that thought process, imitating small things we use, and making them into static forms we can’t. Tony Matelli’s￠27 (2021) is a glass with a frozen 27 cents embedded in polyurethane. With Neil (2017), Andrew Ross takes a plastic cast of a cherry bomb, 8th Hour (Perpetual Night) No.1 (2020) manifests a melty candle in bronze by Nicole Nadeau, and Dixie Cup (Discarded) (2018) finds a crushed Dixie Cup electroplated by Shelter Serra. All these are objects rendered useless by their material metamorphosis.
Again channeling Darwin, we can also examine the company these wee objects keep: each of the two “curiosity cabinets” in 100 Sculptures has three wide shelves offering an expanse of terrain within which to create environments and relationships between works. Urs Fischer’s Untitled (2013), a painted clay peace dove surmounted by a fleshy egg, is neighbor to Remy Cherry’s Remy (1) (2018), a pink quartz egg with oil-painted embellishments, which sits next to Daniel Giordano’s My Clementine LXLV (so fine) (2020), a mottled and humble Raku ceramic orb that embodies two readings of sphere-as-fertility-symbol: egg and fruit. Ray Johnson’s simple undated and untitled wooden block with a rabbit in black and white, seems to share little with Ryan Foerster’s Modeling For Dinner (2018) behind it on the bottom shelf. Even when two objects seem to share little, the very tension of their dissimilarity proves productive, making us conscious of the codes and taxonomies we use to make sense of art objects. The former partakes of this status by virtue of the fact that it is inscribed with a mystical leporidae image, and the latter because it is an intriguing colorful abstract object perched atop a stand—legitimizing it as art. They may not be in the same genus or family, but they definitely inhabit the same kingdom.
So with a sample set like this at one’s disposal, is it just for casual fun to look at 100 small pieces of sculpture? Of course not—there is much to learn here as well. On this kind of scale, the intention is not to overwhelm, but to be direct. Very few of the works seem like left-overs or cast-offs. Like Darwin’s investigations of animal species, the foreign qualities of the unfamiliar often dazzle, but we only begin to understand them through comparison to what we know already. What struck me in this show of sculpture in the age of NFTs and digital insubstantiality was the presence of things that artists have known and used for thousands of years. Elizabeth Kley’s colorful little earthenware beaker Cylinder with Green Leaves (2015); Sage Schachter’s Lucky mug (2020), a sweet little deformed drinking vessel seemingly mired in its own spilt milk; Love / Hate Vase (working title) (2021) by Roxanne Jackson, a tattooed amphorae highlighted with very kissable red lips; and Emily Mullin’s All Day Flex (2018), bringing it all back to the start with a simple bud vase and an even simpler geometric glazing—all these works return us to fundamentals, and in so doing provide us valuable perspective on the task of artistic innovation. If sculpture did, in fact, begin with a vase, or a cup, or a bowl, the implication is that the medium was always a frame to contain or display what was already there.