Helmut Lang: Sculptures is on view at 24 Washington Square North in New York City. Co-curated by Mark Fletcher and Neville Wakefield, it is the first exhibition to be shown at the townhouse turned art space, and Lang’s third solo show since exiting the fashion world in 2005. Last year, Lang’s process of reidentifying as a visual artist saw his shredding of nearly 6,000 objects from his former label’s archive for an exhibition at East Hampton’s Fireplace Project. Following that drastic, and literal destruction of his past, Lang’s new work emerges as a recontexualized exploration of his complex aesthetic.
Set against the lavish walls of the home’s 19th century interior are dozens of vertical abstractions. Some are frail rods, reminiscent of Giacometti’s style of human limbs, while others are thicker, phallic looking, industrial stacks. Volume, light, and their seemingly sexual and organic forms appear to be the primary focus of these constructions. Underscored with the same minimalist tenants Lang applied to his clothing line, the color palette and materials are also strongly limited.
Though each sculpture bares a unique form, they are all black, white, or gray amalgamations of rubber, foam, plaster, sheepskin, and tar. At times they lean precariously against the threat of gravity, or bare a languid melting effect like volcanic magma. Lang inspires an awareness of the physical relationships within each work, stacking some of the bulbous and awkward pieces to highlight their weight and accumulation of pressure.
The space itself is used as part of the experience of this installation as well. In the second gallery of the town house is a a spiraling work made of rubber flaps. Painted in the same gray as the wall it is set against, the untitled work acts as its own site specific tableau with a haute camouflage effect. A floral wreath mold scales the wall, framing the object perfectly. Its industrial crudity is contrasted with romantic antiquated design. Similarly, the floor to ceiling windows at front allow light and shadow to intermix through the various divots, curves, and cuts made within the objects, as well as amongst them collectively, creating a garden of secondary shapes and coloration.