Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Soft-Core: A Show of Sculpture at Rachel Uffner

Puff Pieces, curated by Feelings, at Rachel Uffner

July 8 to August 12, 2016
170 Suffolk Street (between Houston and Stanton streets)
New York, 212 274 0064

Installation view, "Puff Pieces," 2016, at Rachel Uffner. Courtesy of the gallery.
Installation view, “Puff Pieces,” 2016, at Rachel Uffner. Courtesy of the gallery.

Sticky, squishy, felty, rubbery. Plush, plump, porous.

Part cactus, part snowman-shaped Peep candy, a bulbous form stands a shy distance from the front doors. Shaded a dusty aquamarine, slightly blanched like the surface of freshly cut silicone, three cylindrical volumes perch one atop the other. In tumid contours, this shape vaguely gestures to that the class of object that contains canine chew toys, children’s building blocks, and paraphernalia for the sexually adventurous. Jayson Musson infuses Pedestrian (2014) with unexpected life, bringing the object to the physical scale of the human form. In the placement of this work, curator Feelings (whose book on soft art was published last year by Rizzoli) prepares us for the wealth of sensations to come, abstracted in objects that become bodily in their engagement of ours.

Jayson Musson, Pedestrian (detail), 2014. Fiberglass, powder coated paint, 73 x 32 x 32 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Rachel Uffner.
Jayson Musson, Pedestrian (detail), 2014. Fiberglass, powder coated paint, 73 x 32 x 32 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Rachel Uffner.

Temptingly tactile, Justin Adian’s works echo gestures that feel intimately human; in Yabba Dabba Doo (2016) a mitted hand crunches closed, while 2nd Cousins (2016) gives a sidling sway that closes the awkward distance between a baby-boy-blue rectangle and a girlishly pink wave. Spongy, enamel-coated forms cling to gallery walls, creating pastel pop-out patterns detailed by crinkled material and real-life shadow. John Chamberlain’s Untitled (1967) seems to complete these flirtatious motions on the second floor of the gallery, comprised of two partial spheres that kiss, tenderly embracing to become whole.

Guy Goodwin’s cardboard cushions resemble the dotted patterning and depressions of upholstery, an allusion borne out in titles such as Springtime for Henry Grimes (2016). However, we are made sharply aware of the distinction between content and form as Goodwin’s cardboard amoebas stiffly sail through stippled seas. Weirdly plush in volume, these rigid surfaces model structures that they cannot possibly match, distorting internal integrity to achieve the uncanny quality of plastic food or fake hair.

The humble moving blankets that compose Sam Moyer’s series of Night Moves (2009) are impeccably folded, the original patterning of gray and neutral-toned expanses are divided by neat seams, joining one region to another. Regular, orderly ripples traverse each square plane. As with Goodwin’s unyielding bubbles, Moyer’s compositions fall eerily flat, less interested as they are in tactile pleasure, than in clean aestheticism.

Lynda Benglis, Untitled, 1970. Pigmented polyurethane foam, 3 1/2 x 36 x 54 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Rachel Uffner.
Lynda Benglis, Untitled, 1970. Pigmented polyurethane foam, 3 1/2 x 36 x 54 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Rachel Uffner.

Retaliating against hard lines and geometry, Lynda Benglis’s Untitled (1970) makes the fluid discrete in a colorful spill that fails to mar the floor of the gallery. Uneven blocks of color seep stickily in this flow frozen in diffusion, movement caught in permanence. By contrast, Erwin Wurm’s Internal (2016) dissolves that which should have integrity, warping the sturdy exoskeleton of a toaster.

Samara Golden’s pillowy figurative sculptures are tattooed with patterns that feel distinctly, embarrassingly American. Here is the body politic, striated by squiggly bacon strips, foreheads emblazoned with law books and hammering gavels. If we sit too hard and long on the couch — watching conventions, of course — will we too soak up its dull, grandmotherly floral ornamentation? The American flag flourishes across arms upraised in the pose of one of Picasso’s demoiselles. Eyes, painted over these designs and illuminated by a track of fierce gallery lights, look at us coyly sideways. Walk around to other side, and these same limp forms are illuminated by a blacklight that causes a very different relief to manifest: glowing skeletons, skulls, and bones fluoresce. Yet, for these two fronts, there is no substance, no interior.

Airy, insubstantial, empty, hollow, these various works find life in the inanimate and the object in the human. There may not be a whole lot in the way of content here, but that is proudly proclaimed by the exhibition title. This is about substance, but not the intellectual kind; texture is the name of the game and we are awarded with a crunchy, crinkly, plushy show that gives to our gaze as easily and as generously as it would under the weight of a hand. Touch with your eyes. I dare you to feel something.

John Chamberlain, Untitled, 1967, foam, 14 x 14 x 10 1/2 inches
John Chamberlain, Untitled, 1967. Foam, 14 x 14 x 10 1/2 inches.