Writing/Research/Design

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tony Feher at PaceWildenstein

My first review of an artist published in NYArts Magazine. I enjoyed the experience. Thanks to all those who offered their help.

Somewhere along the east wall of PaceWildenstein’s 57th Street Gallery tin foil lies on the floor, rolled up in a small ball. With a step or two, you find a grid of eight columns and eight rows of diagonally cut pieces of silver painted wood arranged in no apparent order on the ground. If you look back up, in any direction, you see a few mundane objects strung from the ceiling. They hang; some are literally composed of hangers. This is what Tony Feher presents as his first solo exhibition at PaceWildenstein. Concurrently, an exhibition of his earlier work runs at D'Amelio Terras Gallery and the Public Art Fund project in Brooklyn at the MetroTech Center.

It is revealing that Tony Feher admires such a proto-conceptual heavyweight as Marcel Duchamp: he understands the power of the readymade and goes beyond it. He picks simple objects like connected black plastic bags that he hangs from the ceiling (ever so slightly spinning counterclockwise-clockwise-counterclockwise-clockwise). The ingenuity of his selections is quite amazing. In one case, he crushes Budweiser cans, places marbles on top of them, surrounds the cans with nickels and dimes, and then arranges all of these elements in a circle. In its vicinity, he tears off white masking tape placing several of the adhesive strips against the gallery wall forming another circle. Simple in its neutrality, this formal device is one he frequently references. In fact, he does exactly the same thing on the opposite side of the exhibition space, only this time the circle is formed of several pieces of torn blue tape stuck to a window.

With a nod to minimalism and conceptual art, his simple compositions feel detached, and rightly so. He does this by transforming the selection of the readymade and its possible arrangements. He utilizes repetition and transparency, both of which have important roles to play in his work. They allow a certain vocabulary to emerge from within his formal and conceptual choices. He arranges objects like glass marbles, glass jars, plastic bottles, plastic berry baskets, metal screw lids, and even food coloring. These arrangements recur, but they are also oblique to our understanding of how certain objects like bottles, for instance, can be arranged.

There is much to Tony Feher's work. He is a couth artist that cannot easily be classified. His work is both creative and personal: he lives with these objects for some time before he displays them. The result is a beautifully installed exhibition replete with subtlety. If a second look isn't granted, it will be hard to notice the small moments, such as the small tin foil ball, resting simply against a wall.
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