Richard Rezac, an artist in his late sixties, practices in Chicago. In 2018, the Renaissance Society, a space under the auspices of the University of Chicago, held a retrospective of three decades of the artist’s work, to considerable acclaim. In “Pleat,” the artist’s show now up in New York, Rezac’s work defies easy description, being a complex amalgam of truly ordinary materials placed as wall works, with one or two pieces hanging from the ceiling, which are all resolutely abstract. One looks for obvious influences without much success; the art may be a consequence of looking at minimalist sculpture, but this presupposes a concern with modernism, which Rezac shows little interest in. Instead, these are assemblages made of everyday materials, in which the substance and the theme are oriented toward a sophisticated populism, in today’s culture not a paradox in terms.
The formalism inherent in Rezac’s work is aligned with his willingness to create works of idiosyncratic inconsistency, in which the temper of the art evades history for a self-sufficient existence. These are objects meant to be seen for what they are as they are, and likely not more. We have truly reached a time when the coherencies of modernism now seem passé--more than a few decades have passed since the startling originality of Picasso's proto-Cubist and Cubist experiments. The question thus becomes, What shall be done next? It is hard to characterize overall so pluralist a time, but calling Rezac’s art self-sufficient and ahistorical might well be a good way of starting to address a more general movement in sculpture today, in which an individualist outlook is wedded to a sense of proletarian form and materials. For those of us who are older, the change comes as a bit of a shock–yet art moves on, as it inevitably does.
Rezac’s works are very much discrete objects, not necessarily closely affiliated with each other. Chigi (2017) is esoteric in form, being a set of wooden and aluminum rails, like the guards of a child’s crib, in white and orange and placed at right angles to each other. At the foot of one of the rails is an organic form, of vertically rising ovals, made of cast hydrocal. The name “Chigi” is the name of a Roman princely family; Agostino Chigi, the banker born c. 1465, supported artists and art projects with large sums. How do we connect the name of a great art benefactor to the abstract sculpture? The art, which is cheerfully absurd, lacking in accessible meaning but intensely sculptural, does not easily coexist with its title. In addition, one has to think hard and long about the meaningfulness of so arbitrary a combination of the forms. Yet the formal conflicts engendered by the juxtaposition of such different shapes, austere but narratively meaningless, result in a memorable work of art. The famous family name Chigi lends an aura of elegance to the work of art but does not explain how its elegance is exampled in the work itself.
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