A precise and judicious curator of her own exhibitions, Carol Bove is known for spare arrangements of mostly found objects that conjure the recent past. Books first published circa 1970 have appeared in many of her installations and tend to function as historical and conceptual anchors for various other sculptural elements that evoke the Age of Aquarius. But period-specific artifacts were largely absent from Bove’s recent solo show, where the elegant display of 13 new sculptures seemed less an exercise in cultural anthropology and more the handiwork of a beachcomber possessed of a very good eye.
The only historical touchstone in this show was a small, black-and-white photograph of a thin, unsmiling and wide-eyed man named Gerald Heard, a British-born writer and mystic who dropped acid with Aldous Huxley in the 1950s to explore the drug’s spiritual potential. Presented with two little sculptures on a high white pedestal, the photograph is affixed to a weathered wooden disk and festooned with a spreading array of fine silver chain—perhaps representing Heard’s lifelong pursuit of expanded consciousness.
Similar chains were used to construct Netting (2009), a delicate, openwork weave of silver links that was suspended from a wooden strut and helped establish a nautical theme which ran through much of show. Touch Tree (2008), for example, uses a wall-mounted steel brace to support a 10-foot-tall piece of driftwood in an upright position. In Shell Sculpture and The Oracle (both 2010), striated conchs, iridescent abalones and other fancy seashells are held at eye level on branching steel stands that surmount slender bronze pedestals. Looking like it, too, had washed up on a beach was a mangled clump of rusted metal lined with dirty insulation foam. Also displayed on a bronze pedestal, this untitled sculpture from 2009 transcended its dubious origins to demand, and reward, esthetic contemplation.
A few works in the show dispensed with marine associations, including two gorgeous untitled canvases (one small, the other quite large, both 2010) that were covered with carefully layered rows of peacock feathers, a material Bove favors. Departing from the nautical motif as well were two sculptures from 2010 that share the same dimensions (96 by 48 by 48 inches) and the title Harlequin. Both are standing rectangular boxes open on two sides made of thick, transparent Plexiglas and sheathed in a diamond-patterned metal mesh that generates moiré effects when viewed from certain angles. They strongly resemble the metal-detecting body scanners standard at airport security checkpoints. Although the gallery discouraged walking through these sculptures, the thresholds they demarcated seemed a fitting tribute to Heard’s metaphysical aspirations—and to Bove’s own ability to transform ordinary materials into objects of wonder.
Photo: View of Carol Bove’s exhibition of mixed-medium sculptures, 2008-2010; at Kimmerich.