Articles and Features: 

Sarah Sze

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

New York

"In the age of the image, a painting is a sculpture."

Christian Viveros-Fauné | Kulchur Vulture

Viveros-Fauné is Artland’s inaugural Chief Critic and the contributor of this regular column. Based in New York City, he writes primarily about exhibitions and the cultural landscape there. His articles also feature Artland’s revolutionary 3D exhibition tours that enable the viewer to pay compelling virtual visits to actual exhibition spaces in support of the texts. This edition visits Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York for its spectacular Sarah Sze exhibition.

Image is everything, but not just because an ad from the 1990s starring Andre Agassi’s orange mullet inspired a balding U.S. president. Today, pictures have become so dominant as to fully upend the real. Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, blogs and other online tools present folks with countless ways to bolster their personal brands—while making the sun and moon turn antically around their ego-planets.

“In the age of the image, a painting is a sculpture.” That’s Sarah Sze, 2003 MacArthur fellow and the 2013 U.S. representative to the Venice Biennial, brandishing her own epigram for a new solo show at Tonya Bonakdar Gallery. It is the artist’s first exhibition in New York since 2015. That fact alone attests to the rare opportunity Gothamites currently have to take in her Whitmanesque revelations. Fired by Sze’s generous vision, the display proves transformational: objects morph into images, iPhone vids into postcard stands, workstations into global villages, and information silos into observatories.

Sze’s sculptures, which sometimes look like rose bushes with 3-D images for flowers, are the perfect artworks to reflect on information glut. These she arrays across various kinds of supports which include, but are not limited to, the gallery’s exterior windows, its corners, the floor and the ceiling. When availing herself of gallery space more conventionally, she erects flimsy-looking armatures that contain—to name just a few materials—cut paper, video projections, printed photographs, notes, moss, metal clips and a bottle of cleaning solution, which she then lashes into order. To grasp their symmetry is akin to waking up from a nap speaking Mandarin.

Sarah Sze, Bonakdar exterior
Installation as viewed from the gallery exterior. Image courtesy Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.
Sarah Sze, Bonakdar upstairs gallery
Upstairs gallery installation view. Image courtesy Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.
Sarah Sze, Project room projection detail
Sarah Sze, Project Room Projection, installation view. Image courtesy Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

Despite the immersive nature of Sze’s gallery-wide installation, discrete works emerge from her all-over narrative like crystals from a chemical solution. The gallery’s main space, for one, features a Tatlin tower of borrowed sights and sounds. Evocatively titled Crescent (Timekeeper), Sze’s enveloping scaffolding features flickering lights, a starry sky projection, and an uproar of still and moving images—a fire burns, a building collapses, a bird takes wing, a fox trots across a piece of torn paper, pixels appear where a complete image should be. 

"Despite the immersive nature of Sze’s gallery-wide installation, discrete works emerge from her all-over narrative like crystals from a chemical solution"

In other rooms, the artist presents large-scale collage-paintings and a walk-in studio. The first, like full-grown oaks, are generated from the acorn that is a tiny collage propped atop a stack of file boxes. The second consists of a room containing, among other items, a laptop computer, a printer and several projectors—they flash disparate images onto a globe shaped trellis and the gallery walls giving shape to otherwise mystifying phenomena. Plato in his cave would be proud.

Visualizing those slippery phenomena is Sze’s great triumph. If her previous sculptures gave temporary form to opaque ideas like globalization and the rickety edifice of knowledge itself, her current interventions sketch the contours of our era’s newly confounding systems: the internet, Big Data, the instabilities built into an image-driven information economy. A metaphor for life’s disorders and not a few of its promises, her exhibition challenges and celebrates human knowhow with hairs and warts and all. No matter how she parses it, it still reads as a weakness for inventing stability for the world’s messiness. 

Sarah Sze, Crescent (Timekeeper), (detail)
Sarah Sze, Crescent (Timekeeper), 2019, (detail). Image courtesy Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

Gallery
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

Opening year
1994

Opening Times
Tuesday through Saturday
from 10:00 AM — 6:00 PM

Tlf. 212 414 4144

Address
521 West 21st Street
New York, NY  10011

[email protected]