Strings, Stones and Skeletons

Sarah Sze @ Asia Society

If I were an artist, I’d want to make work like Sarah Sze’s. Or, now that I think about it, I’d be happy to model myself after Ann Hamilton, too. As I see it, both play with techniques and structures of display, modes of communication and representation, objects’ physical properties, and dimensions and textures of the line. In short: all the stuff I nerd out on.

I’ve been following Sze’s work for the past decade or so, I guess, and last weekend I saw her lovely little show, “Infinite Line,” at the Asia Society. I say “little” not to trivialize the work, but to point out that the exhibition is significantly smaller than others I’ve seen — particularly her fantastic and sprawling show at Tanya Bonakdar gallery in Fall 2010 (see the two images below).

360 (Portable Planetarium) @ Tanya Bonakdar
The Uncountables (Encyclopedia) @ Tanya Bonakdar

“Infinite Line” focuses ostensibly on the relationship between drawing and sculpture (although the Times didn’t seem to find this theme particularly engaging), and consists of eight “closet-sized” (my term) installations (which Sze reportedly calls “Random Walk Drawings”) and, in a separate gallery, several rarely-exhibited drawings, some of which look an awful lot like Julie Mehretu’s work. Photography isn’t allowed in the museum, and there was a particularly vigilant guard in the south gallery, where the drawings were hung, so I managed to surreptitiously snap some photos of only a few of the installations in the north gallery.

Sze @ Asia Society
There’s something Smithsonesque about this piece.

Many of Sze’s sculptures involve slight movement; in some pieces, pages are designed to flutter in ambient drafts, and in others, small fans create breezes that subtly sway strings or ruffle feathers. A similarly subtle kinetics characterizes another show that I was delighted to encounter on the Asia Society’s third floor: U-Ram Choe’s In Focus project. Choe has created an animatronic seal-like creature, the mythical Custos Cavum, which guards the channels between two worlds. As Choe explains it:

Whenever a Custos Cavum felt the generation of a new hole somewhere, it fell into a deep sleep. From the body of the quietly sleeping Custos Cavum grew winged spores called “Unicuses.” These spores took flight and each flew to a new hole, where it gave rise to a new Custos Cavum.

As the skeletal creature breathes, its unicuses sway, dispersing spores, and we marvel at the intricate, polished gears that make this organo-mechanical movement possible.

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