Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Pin and the Sewn

Just got back from the opening of the "Burgeoning Geometries" show at the Whitney on 42nd. I was struck most by Tara Donovan's cube made of straight pins that glistened. In that light it had a spiritual quality--made you realize that light was filling the space, coming from everywhere and touching everything at once.

It brought to mind Eva Hesse, Donald Judd and Kandinsky, who said the square is the only form not found in nature and therefore the only geometric shape that's man made, an idea. Using straight pins, Donovan addresses both the power of the square as man-made idea capable of conveying spirituality, and how we hold things together temporarily.

Hold together temporarily, and also wound. I thought of my childhood in Colombia. My mother had an obsession with sewing new outfits for us for every Sunday. Think "The Butcher Boy", but instead of the mother making cakes, she's sewing ugly dresses that smelled like new cloth and were never ironed properly. We were three girls, and she'd never quite finish any outfit she made for us. We were forced to squeeze in and out of them because there was never enough time for button holes. Sealed openings with buttons sewed on top, a most inconvenient illusion that I now recognize. Some of the pins that held the dresses together were never removed, we made these painful discoveries when nothing could be done about them.

Donovan's "Untitled (Pins)" with its claustrophobic straight pins so painstakingly fitted together, like humans in crowded cities and cluttered minds, was really striking. It revealed a little bit of everything at once, just enough to feel light again. I fought the day's gravity with the elevating power of her work. Some pins had fallen off, were scattered on the floor, so I gently pushed them toward the cube with my foot. The other pieces in the gallery looked contrived, tiresome, like someone working hard at having fun. Her work was a wonderful surprise, like a warm soft sunrise when the forecast was rain.

--Luchy Edwards