Theo Rosenblum’s third solo show with Vito Schnabel features a series of black, monochromatic reliefs, which are a shift from the artist’s typically colorful and ebullient, pop-infused sculptures. The show is a darkly romantic meditation on the power dynamics of predator and prey, as well as death and the manifold forms it takes on, both real and imagined.
Both the black, austere palette, and the physicality of the reliefs bring to mind Louise Nevelson’s found object assemblages. Black acts as a formal and conceptual unifying force, giving cohesion to the oddball eclecticism.
A large mushroom cloud looms over the entire show with its immense aura. Yet it remains more of a symbol of the a-bomb than an actual threat. Its absence of color, and its sculptural, containment transforms it into more of a movie prop.
To the right of the nuclear explosion, a pair of skeletal arms, peer out from beneath a chained wooden floorboard. The meticulously rendered wood of the floorboard as well the highly detailed bricks imbue the piece with a sense of time and history, and could very easily be the backdrop of an Edgar Allen Poe story. Although, unlike Poe, the gesture seems more funny than creepy, and it brings to mind the nudge, nudge, wink, wink, attitude of so many horror movies that took place in the eighties and early nineties.
At the end of the main wall, a human hand removes a lobster from a tank of a dozen or so lobsters, lying bleakly at the bottom. Their carefully sculpted bodies break apart the shape of the relief and disrupt the rectangle. The scene is reminiscent of David Foster Wallace’s essay; Consider the Lobster, which he wrote for Gourmet magazine, describing the gluttony and horror of the Maine Lobster festival. Similarly, a feeling of empathy and hopelessness pervade in the relief. Titled, The Hand of Fate, the impression is that our own fate is not dissimilar from that of the lobster.
On the left wall, a cozy domestic scene, complete with a fragment of a comfy couch, a trophy fish, and a curtained window, remain in tact although most of the room’s wall has been ravaged by some being that tore a doorway through to the outside world. It takes a moment to grasp what exactly has just happened, making it one of the most mesmerizing pieces in the show. There’s an eerie tension between the tidy domesticity of the room and the seemingly boundless nature of the evergreen woods and mountains peering through the impromptu doorway. A path of footprints in the snow lead directly into the scene of the crime, indicating that whoever or whatever did this has not yet left the premises.
Rosenblum’s darkly playful ruminations on death remind us of how impermanent and fragile everything is, and touch upon one of the most universal experiences in which everyone for once becomes truly equal.
By Irena Jurek