Analia Saban possesses an artistic sensibility nimble enough to balance an inherent playfulness with a smart formalistic approach to her mediums. In "Gag," the Argentinian artist's debut solo exhibition in New York, 13 works (all 2012) were mounted to the wall, and though many are made of the stuff of paintings—canvas, stretcher bars, paint—their sheer substantiality brings them into the realm of sculpture.
Each of the artworks sets its own viewing parameters, and none can be seen entirely from a single vantage point. One doesn't behold Saban's work so much as accumulate perspectives on it. For example, the right side of the 6½-foot-long Wall Corner (with Pinhole), Cast in Paint, Mounted on Canvas juts off the wall at a 90 degree angle, exposing the backside of the cast paint as well as the supports that hold it on the canvas. The title refers to the actual object—it is just that, a corner in the artist's studio-as well as to the process by which the work was made. Mentioning the pinhole keys the viewer into Saban's formal engagement with spatial representation. Negative space is accentuated, an approach employed in four other pieces through the use of laser cutting.
Erosion (Staircase) and Erosion (Changing Room) are primed canvases out of which the images of a stairway and a changing room have been laser cut; the negative space has been largely excised, leaving various sections looking precariously feathery and torn up. It takes a moment to register what one is seeing. Rather than looking at the surface of the picture one sees through it, to the metal stretcher bars and the white wall on which the work hangs.
In other instances the canvas functions as a container. One has to get close and peer down into Trough (Flesh), which features a baggy wall-hung canvas, to observe what one's nose detects from several steps away: the narrow basin formed by the canvas is filled with oil paint (110 pounds of it in fact, in a juicy pink-orange hue). The soft squishiness of the oil paint finds its counterpart in works where canvas is configured to hold concrete. It's incredible some of these pieces don't fall off the wall.
Saban's work is grounded in sensual characteristics of tactility and weight, so it's perhaps unsurprising that her subject matter often relates directly to the body. In one piece, Saban casts a king-size bed sheet in white acrylic paint and mounts the flowing form on a large canvas. She does the same in Two Stripe Bath Towel with Tag and Stain-though with the addition of the brown blemish Saban introduces another layer of meaning. It gives the work a sense of personal history beyond any conceptual or formal conceits. The stain, like the pinhole, functions as a kind of wound on an otherwise pristine surface. Saban wants us to notice these slight traumas, perhaps because they stand for a breach of the body, which may itself signify the moment when we become most aware of our physical presence in the world.
Photo: Analia Saban: Erosion (Staircase), 2012, laser-sculpted acrylic paint on canvas, 48 by 40 inches;
at Tanya Bonakdar.