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Art gallery installation of an exhibition, with a metal floor sculpture and  neon light piece
Art gallery installation of an exhibition, with a metal floor sculpture and  neon light piece

Installation view, Mark Handforth, Kunsthaus Zurich, 2005.

The Hong Kong–born, Miami-based sculptor Mark Handforth has on occasion referred to his exhibitions as “landscapes.” The description is apt, given that he often grafts a specifically urban vernacular onto a unique brand of formalism, not only to summon such art-historical precedents as Mark di Suvero’s and Anthony Caro’s metallic structures but also to make clear turns on the project of Minimalism—on Donald Judd and Dan Flavin in particular. Whereas Judd’s forms often invite circumambulation, allowing viewers to discover what had been hidden bays, for example, Handforth will twist the frame of a large highway sign (such as Untitled Silver Sign, 2005, in this show) so its face flattens against the floor like a wilted flower, one corner mischievously folded back, as though hinting that some crucial directive to the viewer may be concealed underneath. And whereas Flavin typically held the question of illusion at a distance from his light sculptures, at the Kunsthaus Zürich, Handforth went so far as to create a determinedly urban ambience with an irregular wall installation of pink-, blue-, and peach-colored fluorescent lights titled Harvest Moon, 2005. (On other occasions the artist has even pushed figuration with such lights, arranging them into starlike wall installations.) A moody, diffuse glow pervaded the low-ceilinged gallery, instantly evoking the artificial light that bathes cities at night.

Handforth’s exhibitions to date have typically featured a number of interrelated sculptures displayed in close proximity, and this richly evocative show of four works was no different, the various pieces complementing one another and together reinforcing the sense of a metropolitan environment. Of all these sculptures, Hydrant, 2003, is closest to being an object as one would find it in everyday life, sitting low on the ground and lit by a single, bright beam of light. Yet the piece seems nearly as organic as industrial, covered with layers of red and yellow enamel “drips” like some decomposing mushroom with secretions bubbling down its surface. Those familiar with Handforth’s previous work, however, will recall the accumulated candle wax appearing in his other city-evoking sculptures, such as the Vespa he has installed elsewhere with candles actually burning on top—and so the hydrant seems a deeply romantic sign completely in the spirit of those noirish overtones generated by the fluorescent lights of Harvest Moon.

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