Christian Marclay’s last solo show was a memorable installation of 16 monitors arranged in a circle and playing a composition of sounds made by shaking, rattling and rolling objects from the Walker Art Museum’s Fluxus archive. This and other imaginative projects (including one front and center in MoMA’s newly reinstalled contemporary art galleries) ramp up the excitement for his next show, titled ‘The Electric Chair’ after Andy Warhol’s famous image from his Death and Disaster series.
Jesse Bercowetz & Matt Bua, Installation View of 'Things Got Legs', 2006, courtesy of Derek Eller Gallery
Jesse Bercowetz and Projects (a collaborative with Carrie Dashow) felt compromised by restraint. Judging by the riot of knockabout sculptures assembled from junk crowding “Things Got Legs” at Derek Eller Gallery, the pair seems determined not to make the same mistake twice. From the spinning head located inside the front door to the flashing lights of a dungeon-like installation in the back room, a carnival atmosphere prevails. But at times, a lack of focus threatens the potential punch.
The show’s energy and disorder stem from the same source: the artists’ enthusiasm for conspiracy theories and folktales, with many pieces confusingly alluding to several at once. The book-laden sculpture “Library” includes an extensive cache of audiotaped interviews with writers on topics like non-Al Qaeda 9/11 plots, secret government experiments and ESP. Across the room, “Can Jet Fuel Melt Steel?,” a rickety model of the WTC towers, constructed from shish kebob skewers and topped with a bowling ball, seems to mock a theory that many of those authors take very seriously.
Bercowetz and Bua’s uncritical approach sometimes backfires. In the rear gallery, an altar festooned with black fabric and lanterns suggests Halloween-party décor more than its purported subjects, child abuse and murder. But questioning the line between truth and fiction – as most of these works do – relates more than a little to the endless spin of our own political climate, giving this show a relevance that insouciance doesn’t diminish.
Dario Robleto, 'If We Fly Away, They'll Fly Away' 2006, Courtesy of D'Amelio Terras Gallery
He has had more than a dozen solo shows (including one at the Whitney Altria); now Dario Robleto makes his New York gallery debut with a deceptively modest exhibition titled “Fear and Tenderness in Men.” Small, intricate, folksy-looking keepsakes are displayed in frames and vitrines, lending the gallery the look of regional historical society. Fitting, since Robleto’s untitled sculptures originate from relics, which the artist transforms into moving meditations on loss.
To evoke the “male tenderness” of the show’s title, Robleto uses tokens of personal affection salvaged from American wars (Revolutionary to Gulf). His raw materials include correspondence between soldiers and loved ones, scraps of uniform fabric and shrapnel recovered from battlegrounds. In most cases, the mind-bogglingly complicated processes used to create the sculptures are their most arresting feature. A delicate birdcage is constructed from bone dust: love letters are pulped to make elaborate flowers.
At times, Robleto crowds too many layers into his pieces, Facsimiles of Civil War era bullets (used to bite down on in surgery in lieu of anesthesia) are cast in a material made by dissolving audiotape used to record poems about war and death – the checklist gives viewers a lengthy syllabus to chew on. The gesture seems excessive because the artifacts Robleto recycles – including antique wedding rings and tiny flowers made from braided human hair – embody sorrow eloquently enough on their own. Still, without making specific reference to current conflicts, Robleto’s sculptures bear witness to the grievous toll of war.
After an August lull, the art world has suddenly come to life with hundreds of new exhibitions opening within the first three weeks of September. With so much competition, it’s hard to single out a solitary, ‘best’ show, although a few stand out primarily because of their spectacular new surroundings. Powerhouse dealer Marianne Boesky’s new building on 24th Street houses Barnaby Furnace’s enormous paintings depicting the parting of the Red Sea, while solo shows by John McCracken, Jockum Nordstrom, and Yutaka Sone inaugurate David Zwirner’s new empire of art galleries (three in a row) on 19th Street. (Barnaby Furnace’s show runs Sept 16 – October 21. John McCracken’s and Jockum Nordstrom’s shows are open Sept 8 – October 14th and Yutaka Sone’s is open Sept 21 – Oct 28.)