Sunday, August 14, 2011

Architecture of a Bomb at Silas Marder

A little mayhem is good for the soul, particularly if you're the one creating it. Witness the upper bunk at Silas Marder Gallery where sculptors Michael Rosch and Ben Butler have assembled/disassembled miles of tubes, fencing, right angles, signage and bits of detritus into a heaving Tower of Babel in a collaborative work titled, Architecture of a Bomb.

The artists were invited to participate in a thematic exhibition based on architecture. The perimeters: they could use whatever they could carry from the back lot of Marder's -- perhaps the East End's most majestic garden center -- undoubtedly a feast of earth-moving, landscaping and tree-hugging paraphernalia. The only rule: no nails in the floors or walls. Oh, and did I mention...they had 3 days from conception to opening night.

Within this architectural rubric, Rosch felt the Tower of Babel would provide a useful metaphor. Since they couldn't use nails he commenced to wedging and weaving found elements into one another until they started to form a tangled citadel. The results: a vision of total bedlam -- harnessed -- like a tornado in a glass jar. It feels (and it is so physical that it absolutely provokes particular "feelings") as if any second it could let loose an apocalyptic belch of the highest order. The interior of Marder's barn is like a gigantic beehive, lending another layer of order vs. cacophony to the site.

I like my chaos with a side of sublime, and here Rosch deftly slips in a little Zen with a straight back chair hovering in the corner where it stands like a Buddha balanced on the head of a pin. It is an effective point/counterpoint to the tower -- a sort of intellectual martial arts move that perfectly torques this environment. Not an antidote for chaos, but perhaps its inverse or a sibling from another branch of the same family.

Butler's zig-zagging ramp, made from leftover pallets, is one part Temple Grandin and one part dazzle camouflage -- a dizzying linear abstraction that acts as a nave or the beginning of a corn maze.

Above it all, a model fighter jet seems to soar too close to the sun. The installation, it turned out, was completed at the exact moment (Japan time) of the 66th Anniversary of Hiroshima. An apt and exhilarating metaphor for destruction and resurrection, Architecture of a Bomb is on view through October.  


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