Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Adam McEwen at Marianne Boesky

One of the more interesting shows I've seen recently was the work of Adam McEwen at the Marianne Boesky Gallery. McEwen showed a series of life sized sculptures of everyday objects -- a water fountain, mirror, air conditioner, safe -- fabricated out of graphite. The work seems to be a form of ironic perfectionism in which the details of the objects are rendered flawlessly although somewhat abstractly, as if the object had no history. But what I found most compelling is the surface itself, as the graphite oddly mimics the form of the original while being simultaneously suggestive of a heavy layer of pencil on paper. A very clever idea: sculptures made out of the implement of drawings.

The show is up through December 17. 118 E. 64th St.

As an aside, thinking about the surface of these sculptures reminds me of another artist who takes advantage of the materiality of graphite. In the mid 90's, I saw a series of brilliant drawings by Quentin Morris at Larry Becker Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. The pencil drawings were built up of layers of marks until the paper surface develops the sheen of polished metal. There's really no way to describe this well in a photograph, as it has to be seen in person the get the full effect.

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