Martha Clippinger, Catty Cornered (2010), acrylic on wood, 12″ x 10″ x 7″; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery
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Artists attempting to gulf the divide between painting and sculpture are asking for it. Locating a coherent equipoise between pictorial space and sculptural space–between invention and actuality–invariably results in awkward (not to say “bastardized”) elisions of form. Even Donatello, the master of bas-relief, couldn’t pull it off on a consistent basis. Martha Clippinger isn’t Donatello–come on; who is?–but neither is she any one of scores of artists who make mixed-media their dead-in-the-water forte.
Clippinger’s amalgams of lumber-yard leftovers and modernist rigor, each of which sports a kid-friendly palette, tip-toe around painting and sculpture with disarming good will. The point isn’t how she performs this feat, but, rather, that the feat is rendered no-big-deal and, as such, beside the point. Imagine a down-home Ellsworth Kelly or a Richard Tuttle we could take seriously. Imagine caprice transformed into poetry and Post-Minimalism rendered humane. Then watch Clippinger make the theoretical concrete.
Martha Clippinger: Hopscotch is on display at Elizabeth Harris Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, until February 4.
© 2012 Mario Naves