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Portfolios from Peter Blum Edition
By Stephen Maine
October 1, 2013

Every picture here told a story—though maybe not the whole story. This show included six sets of multiples by six artists, spanning nearly 20 years. Each approaches its subject from a very different perspective.

John Baldessari’s diptych Heaven and Hell (1988) typifies the appropriationist strategy of recombination—mixing a boxer’s upper torso and gloves, male faces with odd mouths, and a medieval depiction of Satan gorging himself on several of the damned. By contrast, Louise Bourgeois’s Triptych for the Red Room (1994) addresses an emotional state, depicting the sexual exploitation of a female figure by a male and another female, with a hermaphrodite standing by. The work, consisting of three aquatints with drypoint and engraving, is based on the artist’s 1993 bronze Arch of Hysteria.

Matthew Day Jackson’s Dymaxion Series: Missing Link (Lady Liberty), 2007, is more artistically introspective, featuring a pattern invoking Buckminster Fuller’s triangular structures (dymaxions) screened on an exhibition poster showing a rear view of Degas’s Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. Two eerie-looking panels hang below—one with a skull in a tree, the other with what a resembles a snaking metal form. Furrows (1989), by Terry Winters, is a portfolio of five woodcuts, each about two feet high. The contrasting grains of oak and mahogany give tonal depth and visual texture to the swellings of roughly parallel lines that derive from views of the human brain.

A wide range of luminescent grays animates the seven-part Birth of Constructivism: Sequence for Vertov I–VII (1993), David Rabinowitch’s homage to the maker of the experimental 1929 film Man with a Movie Camera. These sheets are worked in various intaglio techniques and feature subdivided disks, which could refer to lenses or apertures, enclosed in irregularly shaped polygons. Fifteen pigment prints from Alfredo Jaar’s The Sound of Silence (2006) were hung for this show in an imposing grid some nine feet high. The images were shot in the prison on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years. The sequence implies a narrative of captivity and repression, with a twist: the first image— of the distant, fog-bound island —includes the wake of the boat that carried the photographer. So the story begins with a departure, suggesting that its narrative is a memory, or that time’s arrow might fly backward.

Stephen Maine

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