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Jessica Stockholder, 'Bright Longing and Soggy Up the Hill', 2005

The two works exhibited here seem calculated to exemplify the distinct categories of ‘sculpture’ and ‘installation’, even while leaving the distinction in tatters. The difference between these two genres of artmaking is immediately appreciable in one’s first encounter with the works; yet the more one engages with them, the more difficult it becomes to remember why, and the less it seems to matter.

This is not to say that Stockholder is engaged with an old-style-formalist investigation of the basic qualities or conventions of a medium. Her brand of formalism is concerned with perception itself, as an experience that gathers time, body and thought into structures more complex than the entry into any such experience could ever have counted on.

That entry—the way into experience—is called curiosity. For Aristotle, our delight in the senses is a sign of an inborn desire to know. With Stockholder’s work, this cognitive concupiscence becomes the way through as well as into the work. I once wrote about how, with one of her early works, my sense that the first aspect it showed me must be its back led me to walk through it, looking for the front. Only after I had worked my way through the whole thing did I realize the work had no front. The resulting orientation was exhilarating.

By now, Stockholder has many more ways of using expectations to undo themselves. Not only are sculpture and installation unravelled; so too is architecture. The larger and more dispersed of the two works here, ‘Bright Longing and Soggy Up the Hill’ 2005, doesn’t simply ‘address’ the architectural features of the new double-height exhibition space that is now the Kunsthallen Brandts. Rather it cannibalises them to create a sequence of stations or tableaux—almost-selfcontained areas of quasi-pictorial near-stability that are nonetheless always just resting points along a path. One might stop to notice some almost anecdotal feature—for instance, the white handbag half-covered in orange paint and lying on a blue carpet—but it always serves as a transition to something else. And yet there is no evident narrative connecting, say, a pile of soil with bits of grass in it and several coffee tables whose tops have been painted over in turquoise (including a round one covered with various pieces of fur, in turn partly painted over) leading to a strange sort of teddy bear made of straw and a tiny construction in Lego. Domesticity and childhood are evoked without definite conclusion. The three greenhouses that hang down over one area of the work, echoing the skylight above them, suggest houses turned into ghosts, or else into abstract ideas.

By contrast, ‘White Light Laid Frozen’ 2005, might seem more physically self-contained, as well as restrained in form and colour (mostly white). As Stockholder writes, it ‘is not a journey; it’s more like a sandwich.’ And yet, even in exchanging dispersion for intensity, post-minimalist dissemination for minimalist modularity, it allows for internal counterpoint and irrational juxtapositions. The work never resolves into unity, but rather, stimulating the senses, ‘makes us know,’ as Aristotle would have it, ‘and brings to light many differences between things.’

Barry Schwabsky is an art critic and poet living in London