In her recent show at Maccarone, Carol Bove's Setting for A. Pomodoro (2005) installation acts as a touchstone for the artist's ongoing project of delving beneath the surface layers of historical icons. Citing Milanese sculptor and scenographer Arnaldo Pomodoro's canonical "spheres within spheres," those enormous bronze globes installed in public spaces across the world, the diminutive Sfera con Sfera (ca. 1963) exposes planetary innards to the light, betraying not an earth-like interior of rock and magma, but a mass of mechanical gadgetry--a fitting synopsis of this show's "museum within a museum."
Several pieces of found driftwood are suspended in brass vitrines, by ropes, on pedestals, and up against steel wire mesh. Nearby, assorted upright concrete slabs stained with tree-like knots and wood grains surround an ankle-deep platform carpeted with shiny peacock feathers, with the sounds of a bubbling brook playing in the hallway. Also mixing the natural and manmade is The Night Sky Over New York, October 21, 2007, 9:00 pm, a dazzling installation of 475 bronze rods suspended from the entryway ceiling in mimicry of the astrological configuration to be seen in the night sky above the gallery at the designated time during the exhibition's run. At quiet moments inside Maccarone, trucks barreling down nearby cobblestone streets caused the rods to shimmer and shake, the attached wires humming softly the music of the spheres.
The show's kabalistic title, "The Middle Pillar," refers to the midpoint between heaven and earth, the central core of the Tree of Life. Alternately known as the Gray Pillar, the Pillar of Beneficence or Harmony, the Pillar of Consciousness, or the Primordial Will, the term corresponds to the cusps of celestial dusk and dawn. It is also the title of a 1970 book by Qabalah scholar Israel Regardie, included here on one of Bove's trademark bookshelves. Many have pointed to Bove's childhood spent in Berkeley, California to explain her preoccupation with utopian projects of the 1960s and early '70s. Whether as gauzy ink drawings of women adopted from old magazines or bookshelves containing mass-market titles from the same era, this period has figured prominently in Bove's earlier work. Yet despite the inclusion of several of these bookshelves at Maccarone, "The Middle Pillar" seems to veer more in the direction of actively investigating countercultural belief systems than merely presenting its random offshoots or fragments.
The concrete slabs, for instance, clearly reference both modernist architecture and minimalism (such as John McCracken's 1970s "planks," which Bove directly cites as a key input). Bove's show can also be linked to male "feminist" strategies of the period, represented here by Bruce Conner's September 13, 1959--a pantyhose, bead, and embroidery affair, which calls to mind a lot of contemporary discussion about whether female artists using objects and techniques traditionally associated with women can be considered as either a critical or regressive act. Bove further alludes to 1960s collaborative or communal art forms by including several other artists--notably all male--in her "solo" show. Besides Pomodoro's sphere, Conner's assemblage, and a sound recording by the Bay Area book dealer Philip Smith (which Bove produced with her own cover image), she included a series of Greek mythological paintings by the relatively unknown Bay Area artist Wilfred Lang (collected by her grandmother).
Visually, though, Bove's work is less aligned with feminist practices than with early minimalist ones, which some have criticized for their aggressive, almost hyper-masculine stance. At the same time, Bove clearly brackets the inclusion of such masterworks by deliberately arranging her dazzling display of peacock feathers flat on the floor rather than upright, and by buttressing the vertical concrete slabs with slender metal supports, resisting the time-honored monumental deportment. Also, unlike minimalism, Bove's driftwood pieces blend the materially old and worn with the fresh and smooth, epitomized by the shiny brass frames. In fact, the overall effect of "The Middle Pillar" is that of an oversized Joseph Cornell box, wherein viewers become part of the documentation. Like Cornell, Bove accumulates neither urban detritus nor newly minted re-creations, but draws together precious trinkets from the past in a treasure chest of her own making, whose generally worn appearance reflects a nostalgia devoid of sentimentality.
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|Date:||Jan 1, 2008|
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