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On Paper Vol. 2, No. 6 July-August 1998


Destroyer-Creator
John Weber Gallery, New York, March 28-April 25.
by Bennett Simpson


Breakdown, erosion, refusal, slumps, cuts, dispersion: such was the range of motions registered both physically and metaphorically by the excellent Destroyer-Creator group show. Focusing on the quicksand of fuzzy moments that hinge aesthetic practice between acts of destruction and acts of creation, Destroyer-Creator was at once theoretical (though refreshingly jargon-free) and irreverently art-historical. With works on paper by canonical unsettlers like Boetti, Duchamp, Fontana, and Matta-Clark, and pieces by younger artists like Rosa Almeida, Holli Schorno, and Sandra Vallejos, to name just a few, this show covered, or displaced a lot of ground.
Conceptually speaking, two kinds of art were dominant. Gordon Matta-Clark's stridently poetic photographs of cut -up and bored-into apartment buildings, from the Etant d'art locatoire series, and Holli Schorno's collage of snipped-out newspaper disaster headlines both documented aesthetically rich sites of dysfunction existing external to and regardless of the work of art. In such public spaces, entropy is almost ready-made. The artist attuned to such spaces becomes something of an alchemist, transforming the veneer of every-day landscapes (the abandoned building, the steady stream of newsprint calamity) into the meaningful sediment of allegory. Weber's inclusion of Duchamp's 1964 L.H.O.O.Q./Shaved in the same room with Matta-Clark and Schorno was, in this regard, especially apt.
The other main type of "destruction-creation" here took it's significant tensions to be internal to the work of art, implied either in the form of the work itself, or in the perceptual stand-off between work and audience. Sandra Vallejos, for example, in her ball-point ink-on-paper drawing Untitled (Nothing) alternately documents and enacts an experience -using language- that can be both treacherous and mindlessly facile. Against fractured planes of messy blue ink, even more fragmented bits of words seem to have been stenciled and scrawled in a haphazard jumble. The words themselves are only partially revealing (or revealed). Like someone coming to a language for the first time, be it an alphabetical language, like English or a visual language like drawing, Vallejos leaves us to parse the half-occluded and recombinant gestures clustered somewhere between meaning and ruin.