Jedediah Caesar's Three Views From Space
still pleases me more than any of these shows
because one piece does that thing that sculpture does best. It rests, thinkingly and lovingly, on the stupidest, most elemental stuff and gets that stuff to actually change on you. Whatever else the show contains, Caesar manages to make disparate things
, like magazines or lemon rinds, into a singular material
. And then he manages to insist that the material
, even after it necessarily becomes a form
This is good, nourishing stuff. And for that matter, so is the sweetness and humility of the original gesture of all this work. It is right to look at all the things around us, the trash we produce and the stuff we sweep up, and know that it doesn't go away, that it goes to a place and becomes something else.
I like, for selfish reasons, that this work takes a geological look at our own detritus.
And for all my own prejudices about arriving at form, it is easy to admit that the grid makes this untitled wall piece the satisfying spatial adventure that it is:
It makes the grand idea more than process art. It becomes more like to make and understand peoplerock
. Not people rocks, but a monolithic substance that has been sampled from, not made and sliced. Caesar made a series of literal core sample shapes that were, well, literal. The enterprise turned into a too-specific fiction about core samples. The grid works better. It's empirical-looking without being specific. And it's ongoing. You'd want to count a number of circles and interpret what that means in terms of any core samples you've made as a young science student. Those geodey shapes remained objects--geological artifacts. A grid, on the other hand, is known for a fact to be endless. You get a sensation of genuine vastness never before possible with only, oh, I'd guess a few hundred pounds of material. Economical!
That's what I mean when I say that this piece asserts itself as material and not form, even though, duh, it obviously inhabits a form. The thing, though, is that the magic is formal, not the form. Grids and cubes are not simply magical disappearing shapes! The grid solved a particularly evil little problem in an elegant way. Once. On that back wall. Cubes and squares do not fare as well in the rest of the room.
One of the most compelling things about Caesar's work is that it's got this fatal flaw that he keeps chewing on and never spitting out. It's so interested in materiality and internality, and so uninvested in form, that it could become a boring sausagemaking project like that
! A dead end lurks around every corner, and Caesar surely knows this. And in the rest of the room, he's casting about for quick answers to hard problems, which is too bad. The prop piece. The potted plant. The crappy chair. Instead of doggedly, carefully insisting on material and material alone, he starts trying to do something with the materials he makes. And when he does this, he closes the door to vastness and geology. The rest of the pieces in the room are more about their form (and their relationship to art history and objectness) than anything else. Their materiality doesn't matter very much.
This is kind of a shame, but it's also par for the course. Sculpture is best when it is impossibly stupid, and it's always a better idea to keep hammering at the unsolvable problem no matter where or when the show is than it is to try to wind up with a decent product.
(I know, I know. Easy to say...)
You can't make something that is inherently bounded read as boundlessly as geology. You can't communicate something as paradoxical as the infinity of internal space using ordinary, physical means... in a small room, even! And that Caesar even does this once with such an improbable process is meaningful.