New York based artist Carol Bove is best known for her large-scale sculptures made of crumpled stainless steel tubing, each combined with a large, circular glass disk. Presented in a monochrome environment, her installations consider the phenomenological experience of form and the surrounding spatial context.
Installed at different elevations and surrounded by gray flooring and walls, the sculptures feature unpainted, contorted and folded steel tubing that has been sandblasted to create a uniformly smooth, almost claylike finish.
This matte surface attests to the works’ physical presence as unadorned steel, while also producing an illusionistic effect, as if painted. Combined with large reflective disks–made with glass Bove’s sculptures simultaneously take in and intervene with their environment, eliding disappearance and disruption.
Her installation also includes a three-dimensional construction of a “Rubin’s vase,” the well-known optical illusion first developed in the early twentieth century by the Danish psychologist Edgar Rubin. The image can be read as either two opposing faces, or a vase—their shared boundary results in an unstable reversal of figure and ground.
This ambiguous perceptual relationship relates to the paradoxes and ellisions at play in the overall installation between positive and negative space, and the apprehension of form versus gestalt.
Bove also creates wall-mounted sculptures in colorful matte finishes that paradoxically render the steel tubing as if it were effortlessly malleable.
The vibrating colors of their contorted, folded steel surfaces alternately seem to reference those found on contemporary industrial products, and the luminous, hyperreal pinks, yellows, and faded mauves of late nineteenth-century paintings by artists such as Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard, while their forms simultaneously register to the eye almost like digitally rendered, Photoshopped images.
The oscillating associations of distinct historically and technologically bounded references is further emphasized by the relationship between the works’ physical status as sculptures and their connections to painting in their representational evocation of brushstrokes and their technical experimentation with applied color, light, and shadow.
These sculptures moreover operate on inverse registers of display, chroma, and scale to the installation in the main gallery, further speaking to the physical and perceptual dualities, contradictions, and slippages at play in the overall exhibition. Together, the works on view further Bove’s engagement with the limits of physicality and perception, and attest to the artist’s ongoing exploration of the possibilities of abstract sculpture.
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