At first glance, the works of Carol Bove, Sterling Ruby and Dana Schutz wouldn’t seem to have much in common besides their creators’ hot-artist status. Yet an undercurrent of aggression unites their otherwise disparate efforts. Bove’s unusually severe sculptures, Ruby’s antiauthoritarian sculpture and painting, and Schutz’s gruesome canvases (including one showing a finger sliced in a fan) range from bold elegance to cheeky flipness in their flirtation with darkness.
Bove’s huge Plexiglas-and-expanded-sheet-metal boxes are the surprise of the show: a cold departure from her intimate assemblages of books and ephemera nostalgically evoking the ’60s and ’70s. The diamond-patterned mesh covering the top, bottom and sides of these rectangular objects explains the title, Harlequin, perhaps after Picasso’s predilection for that subject; here, they become obstreperous gatekeepers, obstructing access to the back galleries.
Bove’s works would have made an interesting match with Ruby’s creepy cage sculpture from his last solo show at Pace Gallery; instead, the latter is represented by the comparatively refined Consolidator, a dark-brown sculpture resembling a cross between a cannon and a coffin, whose title, scrawled across its face, exudes a vague corporate threat. A nearby painting references both a notorious nightclub and a supermax prison, starkly contrasting freedom with lockdown.
Lack of self-control afflicts Schutz’s hapless characters, which include an escape artist who’s pinned himself to a target with knives, and the numskull whose appliance-sliced finger has just generated a tasteful if gory modernist abstraction. After Bove’s monuments to the beauty of power and Ruby’s ominous embodiment of fear, Schutz’s tongue-in-cheek portrayals are laugh-out-loud funny, and the highlight of this show.
Originally published in Time Out New York, issue 775, August 5-11, 2010.