Sometimes I can be a little slow on the uptake–one example of that might be when I saw Sarah Sze’s Triple Point at the 2013 Venice Biennale and didn’t think too much about it. I’m going to blame visual saturation from the overall Biennale experience. Her current exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar in Chelsea fills both floors of the gallery with her signature sculptural assemblages: often mundane things of the world arranged in careful–if unorthodox and teetering–balance with each other.
The first room of the ground floor opens up like a walk into a painter’s studio. Sheets of dried paint hang suspended, as do strings, paper, and pendulums. Slight vibrations can be seen as you pass and disturb the discrete groups of objects. Torn paper and paint splatters on the floor appear both haphazard and precise. Navigating the room is navigating a series of small events in which the action of creation is always implied and new perspectives around objects, under ladders, and in mirrors are created. It displays a mix of scientific curiosity and entropy.
Beyond this exploded studio, the back room of the gallery is darkened with a few focal points, such as the desk featuring a homespun globe and a living plant in a Smart water bottle as well as spotlights created by desk lamps (pictured above). Sze often uses such generic, accessible materials to create her work.
In this room, one of the walls opens out. Inside are a few folding chairs for viewing a projected video (as well as a glimpse at the gallery’s storage space). The video narrates aloud what is being typed and corrected in the email window. The text above describes echoes in an environment, which seems in sync with the sculptural installations that are so sensitive that they vibrate when people walk by. The viewer is implicated as a participant in the environment throughout, here by the waiting chairs.
Upstairs the atmosphere is the opposite of that dark, enclosed space below. Light streams in directly from the skylight above and a relatively simple tableaux of hammock, four mirrors, chalk, and two sculptures–one heavy and one light–take up the room. If below is the artist’s work space, then this is an area of leisure and ethereal thought. Yellow, orange, green, and red paint dried upon the hammock’s blue strings hang suspended. The surface of the mirrors is also obfuscated with some pale splattered substance.
Sze’s arrangements often suggest impermanence, perhaps particularly here where blue chalk lines form stripes on the wall and cover the gallery floor. A delicate arrangement of branch on top of wire on top of rock hovers on the blue ground. In contrasts a metal block sits, all scooped out and with pieces lying around it, on a plain wooden platform next to the ground, suggesting heavy mass.
Science is often mentioned in relation to Sze’s work. Certainly there is an experimental quality that seems to investigate the nature of things, and perhaps advance a view of us living in an indeterminate, mutable state. But there is also a poetics of space involved, where humble materials are arranged as carefully as words in a sonnet. The intricacy of the works rewards the viewer who can spend a little more time in the space to discover the care in the artist’s arrangement.
Up through October 17. Details here.