Spread across the rooftop garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Adrián Villar Rojas has brought a body of new sculptures to kick off this season’s Rooftop Commission project, part of an ongoing series inviting contemporary artists to create large-scale sculptural works on the concrete patio above the institution’s storied halls. Drawing from the formal language of with the Met’s own holdings, Villar Rojas’s work joins previous installations by Cornelia Parker, Pierre Huyghe and Dan Graham, among others, exploring the museum’s site and history against the New York skyline.
Villar Rojas’s work is notably more expansive than previous projects, which often offered a single object or series of small pieces for contemplation. Here, the artist has arranged a dinner party installation, featuring a series of long tables where surreal diners and objects sit. The works, composed through a rigorous series of 3-D scans and digital assemblage, draw from a wide range of objects, bodies and animals, many of which were pulled directly from the museum’s own holdings. In one scene, a sitting figure holds a disembodied hippo’s head, its own figure accented by a series of ghostly hands forming a pair of glasses around its eyes. Elsewhere, a human form sits amid a series of twisting limbs, garbage cans and animals, while tables are stacked with dining implements, historical tools and the occasional human body.
Of course, Villar Rojas is no stranger to monumentality. A number of the artist’s recent works have drawn on scale and its conflicts with substance to masterful effect, chief among them his staggering installation Two Suns at Marian Goodman, or his installation work for Documenta 13. In each, the work’s scale and sense of time, specifically their perpetuation through time (or perhaps the illusion of timelessness that monumentality implies), offers a commanding moment for reflection. Here, the result is no different, yet Villar Rojas’s subject matter is distinctly more concrete, drawing on real objects and a broad vocabulary that almost explodes with references and touchstones in its current context and formal combinations.
Drawing once again on the cluttered historical accents of the museum halls below the viewer’s feet, the artists seems to push at the act of viewing and compiling, and turns his objects here into a cluttered reflection of the museum-going experience. Yet at the same time, a distinct sense of alienation runs through these objects, their clusters of signifiers and varied cultural icons preventing the work from a concrete sense of legibility. Posing cultures and spaces in close proximity, Villar Rojas offers a moment of reflection that simultaneously challenges the viewer to make sense of the object itself, both in its cluttered materiality, and its collision of conflicting narratives.
The Met Rooftop Commission will remain on view through October.
— D. Creahan