Following the gallery’s exhibition of Sterling Ruby’s slurred, industrial run-off and massive assemblages earlier this summer, Hauser and Wirth New York returns for the first show of its fall season with a similarly inclined, yet considerably more restrained take on architectural and industrial forms. This time, the work is Monika Sosnowska’s, and the subject is that of high architectural modernism, reinterpreting the forms and elements of “International Style” as developed and professed by landmark German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Tower, Sosnowska’s single work in the exhibition, is a daring accomplishment: 110 feet of twisting, spiraling steel that takes the grid-work facade of van der Rohe’s Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago as their inspiration. Created using a labor-intensive process of hand-casting and manipulation via chains, crane pulleys and other industrial-strength tools, Sosnowska’s piece is a testament to its own creation, a hulking mass of steel that presses its scale, and the implicit degree of force used to create it as such, immediately into the viewer’s mind. The work is brought back to earth, laid horizontally our across the length of the gallery’s expansive 18th Street location.
It’s a cunning inversion, taking the innovative architectural formats of modernism and using them to create a structure that immediately calls to mind the work of contemporary practitioners in the field of construction design, chief among them architects like Zaha Hadid or Frank Gehry. The frame of the work, moving in a gentle curling motion, seems to express the passage of time and technique in the field of architecture over the past 75 years. The work’s constructivist notions and clear interest in the Bauhaus can’t be denied, a studied investigation into the nature of steel and its rigid form as a starting point for an expansive investigation into its own creation.
But at the same time, an ominous narrative penetrates the execution and presentation of Tower, a historical tie to violence and political identification that inserts a narrative of destruction, of collapse and exhaustion into the piece, and continually raises its head as the viewer circles the work. It’s this notion of deconstruction that ends up infusing Sosnowska’s work here with a sinister undertone that resonates powerfully. Opening a week before the anniversary of the attacks on September 11th, the piece recalls a similar modernist accomplishment twisted beyond recognition, and the visceral iconography of wreckage and rubble leaves Sosnowska’s Tower alternating between moments of chilling disarray and compelling execution.
Through careful shaping and molding, the artist has placed her piece between historical space and the site of memory. Painted a deep black, Sosnowska’s Tower is a an impressively rendered, and somberly displayed reminder of the politics of space and construction, examining the inner workings of architectural form, and the shifting meanings of a work’s historical moorings.
Tower will be on view through October 25th.
— D. Creahan
Monika Sosnowska – Tower [Hauser and Wirth]