Steve Currie: Long Highway at Elizabeth Harris Gallery

Steve Currie, Neuroblock (2009), corrugated plastic, stainless steel wire and silicone rubber, 59-3/4 x 32 x 16″; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery

You’d be hard-pressed to name two schools of art more disparate than Surrealism and Minimalism. Surrealism seeks to tap into the deepest recesses of the human psyche, rendering in concrete form its irrational impulses and unpalatable desires. Minimalism’s goal is the eradication of metaphor in favor of the coercive certainty of literalism. The former embraces allusiveness; the latter negates it. The two aesthetics are philosophically incompatible. But then there’s Steve Currie, whose sculptures at Elizabeth Harris Gallery make a hash of these distinctions with weird and compelling dexterity.

Certainly, there’s something icky afoot in Currie’s amalgamations of the systematic and the organic—of machine-made surfaces and fleshy tactility, of architectural structures and bodily processes. Utilizing corrugated plastic, archival cardboard and hydrocal (a mixture of Plaster of Paris and cement), Currie builds geometric modules that are then stacked and packed.

Running through these brick-like, industrial armatures are looping networks of wire and, within them, bulbous strands of silicone rubber. The latter recall blood vessels, the nervous system or electrical circuitry, and provide snaking accents of acidic color to an otherwise milky palette. Imagine Donald Judd stripped for parts and interrupted by an IV-tube provided by Louise Bourgeois, and you’ll get some idea of Currie’s contradictory accomplishment.

Currie’s juxtapositions of mass and line are hard to resist, particularly given their deceiving offhandedness. His chockablock constructions are marvels of throwaway mastery; an artist who can afford to be blasé about immaculate craftsmanship knows what he’s doing. Then there’s the nimble hand with wire, especially in wall pieces like Tangle and Tangle 2.  In them, Currie exhibits a Calder-like sensitivity in shaping the stuff, thereby bringing an almost surreptitious elegance to an unlikely, quirky and deeply original art.

© 2010 Mario Naves

Originally published in the June 5, 2010 edition of City Arts.

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