Since Minimalism, the cube has been a prominent form in art. Artists such as Donald Judd and Robert Morris were known for their sparse yet meticulous variations of the restrained motif. The 1960s and 70s saw white cubes, black cubes, empty and solid cubes, cubes of steel and those made of glistening mirror. While the cube is far from complex, it has been able to at once demystify art and elicit perceptual provocations from viewers. Now, we see the form take on a poetic evocation with Tomás Saraceno in his latest show “Hybrid solitary…semi-social quintet…on cosmic webs…” at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. Upon entering the gallery one passed behind a heavy curtain to find a black void of a room spotted with spun galaxies of spider webs woven between the metal edges of a collection of cubes enclosed in glass. Each metal frame was installed and illuminated, a beacon of light thrust through fiber. Just a few delicate anchors at the edge of the cube support the densely entwined filaments that nest in the center.
Saraceno researched arachnids for years and the title of the show bears the implications of a more scientific understanding of how each species operates. His research becomes even more apparent with “Cosmic Jive,” the sound installation that accompanies his sculptures with recordings from the vibrations of spider webs. As one moves throughout the darkened gallery drawn between the suspended, radiant silk weavings, the sound of clicks and pulses oscillated between walls, enveloping the viewer in the world we can only get close to but not enter fully.
Upon looking closer at the webs within each cube, one can see they are layered with numerous kinds of weavings, and the collaboration between multiple species of spiders becomes apparent. The artist inserted different types of spiders in phases to create nuanced shifts in pattern, and these shifts in structure are the placeholder for his assertions as a maker into a work that is otherwise the labor of others’ legs. Some webs are tight – the space between geometries smaller- some are fibrous and thick, others tangled. Each exquisite piece is a landscape, an architecture, a proposal for a world that disregards gravity. The elaborate spider web within the basic structure of the cube puts the intricacy of nature at odds with the simplicity of Minimalism. The cube becomes a skin rather than a solid; a membrane that contains a city. It is at the nexus of this tension that something interesting develops: one is simultaneously aware of the minutiae of the world and the vastness of the universe.
One cube stands apart, for it is open and a single spider labors in its domestic realm. The open edges of the square form feel dangerous, leaving the viewer with the possibility that this creature might abandon its dominion to hunt for sustenance. We are witnessing a work in process, a rare insight to be offered by a gallery, but rather than feel the vulnerability of the artist displaying something unfinished, we are the vulnerable ones. We are captives of a spider working quietly in the dark, enthralled by the complexity and the boundlessness that emerges from this body of Saraceno’s work.
Tomás Saraceno “Hybrid solitary…semi-social quintet…on cosmic webs…” was on view at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery from March 26th – May 2nd, 2015. Ayden LeRoux is a contributor to Eyes Towards the Dove.