Marcos Rosales’s first solo show in New York, “Excerpts from the Demons of Diversity,” presented an exhaustive contemplation of selected words. The exhibition title refers to a collection of stream-of-consciousness writings authored by the artist; the featured sculptures and paintings detail his fixation on particular texts from the collection. On a formal level, each work mimics the written page by showcasing black characters against a blank white surface. The three paintings resemble graffiti; created with smooth enamel paint, they feature illegible word layered over each other. Some letters can be distinguished, but the stylization of the letters and the overlapping words crowding on top orbit comprehension of any individual word. Despite the incoherence of the text, the paintings have symmetry and a sense of control. Their neatly graphic quality makes them resemble templates or preliminary sketches.
By contrast, the four sculptures are immense, sprawling, and intriguingly strange. Rendered in polyester cord, these black forms hover in space with a slightly sinister air. In each sculpture, the cord is woven over a wire frame, giving it more presence than one would expect from macrame, a technique more often used for amateur craft projects. Some of the sculptures are suspended from the ceiling like opaque cobwebs; others hang on the walls. Often, the cords are woven tightly to form impenetrable nets. Rosales introduces several weaving and knotting techniques, extracting a variety of textures from the same material.
One could read the sculptures as forms obscured by the black cord, in the same way that parasitic vines sometimes overgrow the shapes of trees. In some sculptures, the covered wire framework protrudes from the knotted center in thick masses, while in others, single spikes wrapped in cord stick out in odd shapes resembling a sword handle or the gear shift of a car. In one, a partially covered wire circle vaguely evokes a musical instrument or an embroidery hoop. Three of the sculptures have long crocheted cords hanging to the ground and ending in puffs of fiber, as on a whip, inviting dark comparisons to instruments of torture and coercion.
Language, and its limitations, is a recurring theme for Rosales. According to the gallery’s press release, he was adopted, and his adoption files contain a letter from his biological mother in which crucial words are obscured by black scribbles. The gallery suggests that the sculptures, in addition to being three-dimensional incarnations of the words in the paintings, directly reference the scribbles on the letter. In different ways, both the paintings and the sculptures convey a struggle to communicate and understand: the paintings consist entirely of illegible words, and the sculptures are laboriously constructed, yet ultimately unrecognizable forms. The sculptures’ inconclusive, tangled masses seem to embody the mind in turmoil, with enormous lengths of cord entwining and detouring instead of progessing in a linear fashion. These bundles even resemble dark cocoons, in which obsessively dwelled-upon ideas are turned and wrapped repeatedly until they cease to be identifiable as more than looming masses of confusion.