A human form, colored dark green and made of wire, dives to the floor but doesn’t quite make it. He’s suspended in mid-air, head up, arms open. This is “Hollow,” the premier piece of Julie Tremblay’s first solo show in New York City, Some Kind of Nature, now on view at 571 Projects.
“…I make work that, through a variety of untraditional materials, speak of what it’s like to a human being today, in a modern, desacralized world,” Tremblay said, “The sculpture’s gestures and imbedded symbolism become metaphors of social themes that have been underlying in my work for the last 15 years, such as the tension between individual and society and the collective unconscious…”
The gallery consists of a single rectangular room, where everything except the art is colored white, and nearly the whole south wall is windows, swelling the space with natural light. Some Kind of Nature is spread systematically across the room, with “Hollow,” by far the largest piece, placed just left of center.
It’s beautiful—this empty, suspended shell of a man. Although it could be a woman, especially since either sex is unlikely to ever reach this massive length of 14 feet. But here it’s the position and not the size that matters. He’s diving down but with his chin tilted up, as if he’s accepting the fact that he’s falling with literal open arms. A work about grace, and what it means to glide towards a smooth landing instead of exploding on impact. There seems to be a general theme of acceptance and glad submission toward whatever befalls him. In a way, this piece could almost go a step further in comparing gravity to time. Both have control over us physically and will eventually win, because everyone dies and everyone’s tied down to the earth. But at the same time, the upward gazing head gives hope, because if to fall is to die, then the fact that we’re suspended and living at this moment makes us immortal—at least as long as we’re looking up.
Unfortunately, the only thing “Hollow” has to look at is “Ringmaster,” a simple white wax hand projecting from a tiny shelf on the right-hand wall. It’s actually a left hand, immediately giving away an aspect of the piece’s title, for this hand has no ring. It’s slender and long, and as translucent as the shelf it rests on, with the fingers almost touching. It reaches towards the front of the room, and is placed at the exact midpoint of the wall, giving an odd feeling to the whole space. Its translucency and small size initially hide it from view, but once you notice it, it’s almost uncomfortable to realize that a severed hand has been reaching up and out this whole time. But perhaps that’s the point. This hand is controlling the room and now us because we’re in it, just like the marriages those rings symbolize control the people who are in them. Conceptually there’s a lot to stretch out of it, but aesthetically “Ringmaster” is just a creepy severed hand.
Across the room, in the space closest to the door is “Red Handed,” suspended from a single translucent wire. Made up of tiny white wire triangles outlined in black, the figure has an overly long torso that’s folded backwards at the belly button, forcing the figure to wrap around itself. The head reaches back and in-between the knees mid-flip. The hands project out and away from the body, as if it was necessary to push back with something to make it to this crazy position. In the exhibit’s press release, 571 Projects wrote, “Deliberately abstracted, the figure appears weightless, transcending the materiality of the metal. Her choice of materials has a unifying interstitial quality alluding to the cellular structures not only of the human body but also of the cosmos.” If the figure were to stand up straight, it would look as if it had been stretched out by a toffee machine or some form of cruel medieval torture. But this purposeful abstraction still only makes it one of the prettiest pieces in the room. The only other piece in competition is “Red Handed’s” counterpart on the other side of “Hollow,” called “Reflections #4.” (At top).
It looks as if it was created with the same sort of triangular-metal pattern seen before, but this time with copper plated steel that catches all the room’s light and makes the piece glow. Its general circular shape makes it look even more like the sun of the room, but it’s another human figure in the middle of a backflip. Her arms are wrapped over tucked knees and her head’s tilted back, as if she’s just jumped off the diving board and wanted to get her hair wet first. She’s just so shiny, and is the most whimsical acrobat here.
In the corner closest to the door sits “Bed-Stuy Sideshow,” a sculptural representation featuring two purple Styrofoam legs kicking out of lampshades that are propped up on bricks. If you let your eyes go out of focus, it almost looks like someone dancing upside-down with crazy shorts on, but as soon as you look close (or even at all), it just looks rough and unrefined, especially next to all the shine in the room. The Styrofoam is weirdly, yet only slightly, discolored in some places, and the lampshades look too flimsy to support anything at all. Although that could be part of the message, the whole piece too coarse to even hear what that message is.
All these human shapes shining and somersaulting in this all-white room gives the whole space so much energy. There are two other pieces included in the gallery, “Astro Turf Seagull,” a piece very properly named and hanging just outside the entranceway, and “Stackocups,” which initially I didn’t even think was a part of the gallery. It’s just a stack of little paper cups leaning against the wall. It is at a funny angle, but these two pieces seem very misplaced, far from the spinning human forms that grab attention. All the metal here is incredibly weightless and lively, bringing light and movement to this room that we inhabit with them.
Some KInd of Nature
551 West 21st Street, Unit 204A
Through May 19, 2012