Contributed by Liz Ainslie / For several years I have watched Elisa Lendvay’s sculptures emerge with a winning combination of grace and wonkiness from the cement floors and drywall corners of Bushwick spaces, and appear as jewel-like talismans atop the pedestals of Midtown galleries. “Rise,” Lendvay’s solo exhibition at Sargent’s Daughters on the Lower East Side, adds new dimension to her washed and tumbled found-object arrangements through thoughtful placement within the space, and the utilization of shadows in a way that agreeably hearkens back to 20th-century modern sculpture.
The sculptures may initially present as something akin to craft-fair wind chimes, but don’t be fooled. Lendvay’s clever hand and attention to color transforms bottle caps, wire, plastic, and fabric into precise but also very adaptable forms. Her sculptures might hang from the ceiling, sit on the floor, rest on pedestals, or be mounted on the wall. The small-scale works tend to be situated in delightfully precarious positions. The larger hanging pieces incorporate heavy-looking elements that don’t normally find their way into mobiles, casting moody shadows next to floor works. The color and flatness of the wall pieces – though she uses white to impart a sense of relief – reveals Lendvay’s understanding of painting as well as sculpture. Floor and pedestal pieces, leveraging woven elements and tiny shards, twist and turn upwards. A collection of small-scale constructions set on a low platform sandwiched by two walls provides a curiosity cabinet of colorful oddities.
The overall form and narrative thrust of Lendvay’s work clearly evokes notable sculptors. In her abstraction of natural form, she resembles Brancusi, who would insist on taking his own photos of the work in order to control the contrasting shadows cast by the oblong marble shapes. In her subtle color and accumulation of objects, she bears some comparison with Louise Bourgeois, whose compilations of irregular naturalistic forms likewise seemed to embody a personal narrative. Lendvay’s work, of course, does not possess the weight and impenetrability of marble. Instead, joints and junctures reveal the practical decisions that go into creating materially eclectic sculptures. Quite intentionally, they are far from seamless. Lendvay’s pleasingly – and purposefully – awkward arraying of found objects also brings to mind some of Noah Purifoy’s installations. And her use of dappled metals operates like a static version of a Maholy Nagy piece, with the holes projecting alluring negative shadows on the wall. Deftly added paper clay and plaster convey movement – indeed, an almost dance-like fluidity.
As a painter, I have been intrigued to see sculpture move towards a kind of painterliness. Taken to an extreme, the shift can seem fetishistic. But Lendvay’s choices of color and texture are well-judged. Some of her pieces push the envelope, deploying bright yellow over black, and almost seeming to dive into the dirt whence the found objects came. Yet others are whitewashed or pastel, recalling the controlled, economical painting of Diebenkorn or Morandi. Through the chalky washes, she leaves an underbelly of industrial grit showing through, achieving an effect similar to that of a painter who lets the canvas peak through targeted brushstrokes. Certain works come together more solidly than others, and Lendvay’s arrangements can sometimes seem dashed off. But even those pieces legitimately fall into the “provisional” or “casualist” category. More broadly, they signify that she isn’t afraid to take risks by experimenting with observation and physicality in an effort to strike a complex aesthetic balance involving material, color, weight, form and relationship to surrounding space.The result is a waltz of charms and amulets, having emerged from the earth unrefined to be handled, rubbed, and hewn. Ordinary bits of buried detritus spring back to life, reaching out like craggy branches towards the sun.
“Elisa Lendvay: Rise,” Sargent’s Daughters, 179 East Broadway, New York, NY. Through September 15, 2019.
About the artist (from gallery website): Elisa Lendvay (b. Dallas, TX 1975) lives and works in Poughkeepsie, NY. Her work is currently on view at The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, New Paltz, NY and has been exhibited at Underdonk, Brooklyn, NY; Giampetiero Gallery, New Haven, CT; Klaus von Nichtssagend, New York, NY and Sardine Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. She received an MFA in Sculpture from The Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Bard College, Annandale-On-Hudson, NY, in 2006.
About the author: Brooklyn painter Liz Ainslie has had solo shows at Transmitter and Airplane in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and Creon Gallery in Manhattan. She received an MFA from Tyler School of Art in 2004 and a BFA from Alfred University.
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