Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Somewhere between the flat and the crooked is the scissored,somewhere between drawing and sculpture,a step that more or less skips painting. The material is paper, cardboard, mylar aspiring to the condition of lace, string,twine,or rope which can be straight , or curved,or knotted and tangled. Scissored imagery often uses the symmetry of the fold- and- cut process and then slices it, crumples it or tears it into a thousand pieces and reassembles it in a flurry. The space that such artifacts occupy is not painting space or sculptural spaceor enigmatic conceptual altar space. It feels like gesture space--the big abstract expression-ist swatch of a loaded brush of paint across canvas, but in this case across the whole room and in this case in a stroke which proves to be made of meticulously wrought fragments.
Two virtuosi of this process are Mark Fox, who shows at Larisa Goldston, and Chris Natrop,based in L.A. They are more like each other than they are like anyone else, but no more like each other than were Pollock and De Kooning. Fox tends to work towards a tornado-like centrifugal motion.Natrop tends to make constructions which may be leisurely walked through, a jungle of opaque and semi-transparent pieces and their complicated shadows. If speed were an attribute, one might say that Fox slings his imagery faster, Natrop more slowly--but of course this is absurd. It is simply that installation art is evolving its own time-sense,its own musicality, and this is something for which there is as yet more gesture, more pointing-towards, than legitimate vocabulary.

Fox's largest statement to date is DUST, which though not completely characteristic of his technique(s),is certainly a testament to his skill. Over a period of two years he made a painstaking reconstruction of every object that he owned as a paper cut-out facsimile which he then hung as if spiralling away in a tornado. Each of these cut-outs was painted toxic green from below in memory of the green underside of a tornado he saw as a child.It combines pedantic detail with wild centrifigal motion.It is the epitome of re-assembly through fragmentation.
It feels like a piece by James Surls done almost thirty years ago, which was a tree-sized sculpture made of an actual tree depicting a tree under possession suspended as if swirling with each of its branches transformed into a wielded axe. No formal relationship, in truth , save for this sense of churning centrifugal motion, and the sense that both conjure the storm.
Other of Fox's work is in the vein of urban ghost-making, floating paper constructions hyper-filigreed and drawn upon with the delicacy of etching. He will sometimes festoon these over sawhorses, which seems to be his muse- among- objects as the apple was Cezanne's. He also makes creatures threatening and/or forlorn.His earliest work was as a puppeteer--he won a Jim Hinson award for his work in theater. I envy those who have seen it.

Natrop's big pieces have the quality of painterliness in their use of swatches and washes of color,the quality of sculpture in its orchestration of shadows. Why it feels like a rainy day Vuillard or Bonnard eludes me, but it does.Natrop's smaller work--even those pieces 96 inches high--has an exquisiteness which is neither twee or precious due to the formal demands he makes on himself, which are far more varied than the mere turning out of prettiness on a lathe.The components add up.They seem to broach some near- moment when a shadow transforms into a silhouette or illustration. Almost and never quite yet.

Installation art has entered a period where it discorporates and re-integrates space in ways previously unknown. It is as if baroque alterpieces had volunteered to de-construct themselves as a ballet, as if the decor of Ravel's opera L'enfant en la Sortilege, with its lamenting wallpaper, cantankerous arm-chair, and coloratura fire were normal home furnishings.Some new relationship between sculpture and architecture is being worked out. Some of the best of this makes scissors and paper rock.

(Illustrations one and two are by Mark Fox, the second from Dust, which was installed
at Rice University in Texas; three and four
are by Chris Natrop; five is a reiteration
of Fox . Videos of the work of both
can be seen on the web.)

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