Saturday, October 29, 2011
Andy Coolquitt, Agnes Denes, and Robert Smithson at Lisa Cooley
The works of Andy Coolquitt, Agnes Denes, and Robert Smithson may have completely different aesthetics, but they all engage concepts of energy and are unified by their use of geometric forms.
Denes’ works on paper are highly refined and systematic. Her Map Projections series maps the earth as different geometries found in nature, such as The Egg and The Snail. Earth’s latitude and longitude lines that form these new shapes are orderly and calculated. Denes’ Pyramid series explores pattern and geometry in an equally meticulous way. The fine lines of these lithographs are printed on black and white paper and sprinkled with a silver dusting that makes them shimmer up close. The familiar five-sided pyramid is twisted and stretched just enough so it is recognizable, but begins to look like it’s floating or moving through space. Titles like, Bird Pyramid for the Twenty-Second Century, suggest the pyramid is not only an ancient form, but also a geometry of the future.
Smithson’s drawing of The Spiral Jetty explores a natural geometry similarly to Denes’ work, but is casually sketched on paper with marker and pencil. Smithson’s iconic earthwork, in the shape of a spiral, explains the irreversibility that happens in nature without the expenditure of energy. The work is exposed and submerged over time by changes in its environment, and without repair, it gradually loses its original identity.
Coolquitt’s colorful found-object sculptures contrast the pristine paper works in the show. Rosemont Towers is a collection of lighters that the artist gathered from vacated crack dens over several years. Each lighter has its own individual characteristics, which are kept intact as they are stacked on top of each other in a tall tower-like form. Most of the lighters are empty and worn down, so they can no longer supply energy, referencing the individuals that once gathered in these abandoned spaces. In A Soft Striped Place, Coolquitt creates a comfortable meeting place where viewers can lean against soft fabric rectangles in one of the corners of the gallery. These soft forms invite conversation and closeness, which counterbalance their cool, minimal aesthetic.
Denes’ maps and prints convey that natural shapes have the ability to change into new forms while adhering to universal systems and patterns. Smithson’s Spiral Jetty coils out in natural space to form a perfect geometry that suggests duration at the cost of energy. Coolquitt’s forms invite the exchange of energy through conversation among the visitors in the gallery and reference the lost energy in abandoned spaces, people, and objects.
While the works of each artist don’t formally complement each other, there is a unity in each artist’s interest in systems, whether they be social or mathematical, and the use of geometry to create minimal works. However, the show is too vast in the artists’ concepts of energy in space, nature, and people for there to be a strong conceptual connection between each work.
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