One of my biggest disappointments last week (and trust me, there were loads) was the New Museum's removal of Ugo Rondinone's Hell, Yes! neon sculpture from the buidling's facade. The museum took the piece down to make way for Isa Genzken's Rose II (2008), and will relocate Hell, Yes! elsewhere, but the Bowery looks colder and duller without the rainbow-colored declaration :(
For another, albeit entirely different, Rondinone fix, I headed west to the Gladstone Gallery for nude, the Swiss-born/New York-based artist's current sculpture exhibit. According to the show's press release, "[S]ince the early 1990s Rondinone has been developing a specific formal and conceptual language around figuration that includes an expansive group of sculptural and photographic self-portraits as well as his clown series." An extension of this earlier group of works, nude "continues to explore similar aesthetic strategies of engagement in which Rondinone generates often unsettling contexts that reflect upon existentialist expressions of the human condition." Seven life-size and meticulously detailed figures composed from wax and earth pigments are displayed on the gallery floor along the white walls, each in a "pose of hermetic contemplation that gives way to a site of serenity." The artist cleverly creates an interplay between his zen figures and the room they occupy, "elicit[ing] a sensorial encounter, highlighting both the passivity of the figures and the spatial void at the core of this scenario." The calm and silence in the room is overwhelming, making the vacant, stark area in the center of the room, between the sculptures, feel all the more vast.
The title nude refers not only to the figures' naked bodies, but also "implies a kind of primary, exposed and reductive state" which is enhanced by the exhibit's lack of "narrative action... that momentarily suspends the outside world and its referential character in an appeal to the conditions of our present state of consciousness." Comparing these life-like and anatomically precise sculptures to Rondinone's Hell, Yes! neon sign proves that the artist is well-versed in using various media—wax, video, neon—to create provactive work that "consistently testifies to the strangeness and beauty of human life." Learn more at Gladstonegallery.com. Through December 23rd.
*Also currently on view are five tree sculptures by Ugo Rondinone at the IBM Buidling, 590 Madison Ave.