Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reconstructing Space: New Works by Sarah Sze

Currently on view at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery is a solo exhibition of new works by New York-based installation artist, Sarah Sze. Sze's works are highly elaborate constructions built from everyday objects: plastic water bottles, rug fragments, discarded cell phones, cans of beans. The intricacies of her extensive, room-sized installations require the viewer to maneuver cautiously in and around the carefully composed structures to better examine each piece's immense detail.

In The Uncountables (Encyclopedia), the artist's systematic layering and strategic placement of commonplace objects gives new context to our everyday clutter and reconstructs a bizarre version of the very world from which the items were pulled. Numerous tiny holes, pierced in the vinyl of a black lawn chair, resemble constellations. Small, white painted blocks and bottles suggest buildings. Rectangles of gray paint swatches lined atop rulers are reminiscent of rows in a parking lot.

On the second floor is 360 (Portable Planetarium), a piece which further exemplifies Sze's ability to construct new realities. This work exists in its own circular wooden framework, with a landscape of cascading trees cut from magazines. Reflections of water glisten on the walls, invoking the possibility of illimitable space beyond the piece's enclosed architectural realm.

With these refracted and distorted reflections of our inhabited space, Sze manages to establish an order within the assemblages of accumulated objects. Each vignette, created from the minutiae of a lived-world, both grounds us in the everyday while simultaneously projecting us beyond it. Although Sze's arrangements may appear a chance assortment of quotidian paraphernalia, there is an organic and ethereal balance infused within her works that makes each one worthy of prolonged exploration.


  1. I’m really glad you chose this exhibition, because I think it was dramatically different from the other shows we’ve seen in Chelsea. You do a great job of describing each piece. We really get a sense of these strange little, yet encompassing environments she creates. This review is well organized, and the conclusion is clear given the complexity of these works. I would talk more about what Sze’s obsession with categorizing does for these pieces (found in the organized rows of cast objects on shelves), and how they instantly change the scale of the piece to a normal perspective. I would say it’s her ability to shift the scale of every day things as the viewer explores these environments that, as you said, “both grounds us in the everyday while simultaneously projecting us beyond it.”

  2. This is a fairly well done description of Sze's show which is no easy feat. I also appreciated the author's writing regarding care and caution necessary to even be a viewer of the work. There is so much activity within each installation one would be hard pressed to fully communicate its breadth. What I found so interesting about this show, so singular, was Sze's range of talent. Yes, she is obsessive about building these works, but what I found so impressive was the skill it took to be proficient on so many levels: installation, assemblage, sculpture and appropriation.