“Sarah Sze: Infinite Line” at The Asia Society

Installation photo of Sarah Sze: Infinite Line at The Asia Society

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The more Sarah Sze accumulates and organizes detritus—the more impressive her meticulous arrangements of this, that and the other thing become—the more you have to wonder what it is she’s concealing or, for that matter, running from.

Sarah Sze: Infinite Line, a mid-career exhibition at Asia Society, does everything and goes nowhere simultaneously. Give the artist this much: She imagines what might have happened if Robert Rauschenberg had been a neatnik beholden to Alexander Calder and not the New York School—and if he had been a victim of information overload rather than its messenger.

Immaculate confusion is the result, painfully choreographed and scrupulously inert, though the work hints at pictorial invention. The trouble is, Sze is a sculptor—or an installation artist, whatever. Where to begin detailing her materials? Among them are a rolodex, a tape measure, pocket change, rocks, an upturned driver’s license, rolled-up photographs of natural phenomena, a desk fan plugged in and working, exquisitely ordered confetti, a take-out coffee cup from “Bread Corrado Pastry” and string, lots of string. What Sze gleans from Calder is his gift for rendering line as a three-dimensional entity and the theatrical contingencies of his “Circus.”

Detail of Sarah Sze installation

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The site-specific works are deftly configured within the soaring galleries at Asia Society. Sze does have a way with the juxtaposition of the minute and the encompassing, the architectural and the ephemeral. What she doesn’t bring to the work is any sense of particularity. One Sze is indistinguishable from the other.

In the end, all those finicky agglomerations of stuff don’t coalesce into anything with much vitality, personality or staying power. An ambitious blur of expertise—we should ask more from our artists.

© 2012 Mario Naves

Originally published in the February 22, 2012 edition of City Arts.

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