What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week

KEN JOHNSON, The New York Times, July 28, 2016

'Melodrama, Act 2: New York'


This sparely theatrical and uncommonly evocative exhibition consists of three sculptures and a video. At one end of the gallery, two busts on pedestals make up a tableau about creative imagination. One portrays the composer Giuseppe Verdi. Rendered in dark wax over plaster by the Italian sculptor Vincenzo Gemito (1852-1929) in 1873, Verdi is beetle-browed with deep-set eyes, thick hair and a heavy beard, and appears profoundly thoughtful. Looking toward him is "Italian Woman," a gleaming, stainless-steel, Rococo-style representation of a beautiful woman made by Jeff Koons in 1986. She might be Verdi's muse. Letters inscribed into the sculpture's base identify her as Lucia Mondella, a character from an 1827 novel, "The Betrothed" by Alessandro Manzoni, considered one of the great works of Italian literature.


At the gallery's other end, the subject is hands, the sculptor's primary tool. Urs Fischer's "Foxtrot" (2015) has a realistic pair of detached hands resting on the back of a red plastic chair. Next to it, Richard Serra's three-minute, black-and- white film, "Hand Catching Lead" (1968), loops on a small screen. It shows the artist's dirty hand repeatedly attempting and usually failing to catch small sheets of lead falling from above. 


The second part of a trans-Atlantic production organized by the independent curator Francesco Bonami ("Act 1" is in the gallery's London space), the exhibition inspires meditation on the archetypal wedding of mind and body out of which all art is born.