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City Arts

Unspecific Objects

By Bonnie Rosenberg

April 6, 2010

Minimalist art often confounds the viewing public. In his seminal 1965 essay “Specific Objects,” Donald Judd explained: “It isn’t necessary for a work to have a lot of things to look at, to compare, to analyze one by one, to contemplate. The thing as a whole, its quality as a whole, is what is interesting.” Much clearer.

The Thierry Goldberg Projects’ exhibit Unspecific Objects brings together six artists—Martin Basher, Jona Bechtolt, Daniel Ellis, Rashawn Griffin, David Scanavino and Takayuki Kubota—who were all charged with the task of reinterpreting Judd’s brand of reductionism. Think of it as minimalism 6.0.

The included works aren’t just regurgitated versions of Judd’s polychrome steel boxes, they’re pieces that speak to the future of minimalist art. Using both classically minimalist materials (concrete and Dan Flavin-esque fluorescent lights) and those outside the movement—TV screens, posters and fabric—these pieces rejuvenate a deceptively stark artistic genre.

Griffin’s “The Haberdasher” greets the viewer with a plaid fabric-clad canvas suspended from the ceiling. Presumably, the piece is merely a textile rectangle, a work that is “neither painting nor sculpture.” But the other side reveals a Rauschenbergian combine. This covert canvas jumbles images of huts, flowers, copulating beetles and a torn book page. It’s unexpected and a harbinger of good things to come in this small exhibit.

“Untitled (Rope Cast)” by Scanavino is more reminiscent of traditional minimalist art. This sculptural diptych features a deep rope impression that slithers through two plaster blocks like a fossilized worm. Though sparse materially, this piece is surprisingly referential, bringing to mind Duchamp’s “3 Standard Stoppages.” What appears to be a haphazard cast is in fact quite deliberate.

A cumbersome television slumps in the corner of the gallery’s second room. The TV’s blank screen fills repeatedly with the familiar colors of a broadcast test pattern. For each sliver, there is an accompanying tone that fills the space with a vaguely ominous cacophony of sound.

Minimalism concentrated on medium and the object, much like these works do. But these artists are challenging the past rather than being slaves to it. And for the most part, they are doing it quite successfully.