Joseph Montgomery

New York

at Laurel Gitlen


For his second solo show in New York, Joseph Montgomery (b. 1979) made use of a grab bag of mediums—the show’s 14 pieces range from a bronze casting of a found marble object to mixed-medium as- semblages to an oil painting—to explore the formal and conceptual possibilities of stacking and leaning, tilting and turning, looking inside and outside. The most distinctive visual motif was the wooden shim: whether bought at a hardware store and used as an element in a wall relief, or scaled up in a cedar sculpture 10 feet high, it’s a long isosceles triangle that points like an arrow in one direction while gently guiding the eye in the other.

In a group of wall-hung assemblages, Montgomery destabilizes the picture plane, and with it the viewer’s relationship to the content of the work. Image One Hundred Twenty-Three (2008-11, 14 1/2 by 13 by 3 1/2 inches) consists of pieces of paper and sheet metal in shapes like cutlass blades, painted white and ocean blue. These are stacked on a panel and push deep into the viewer’s space. However, the piece remains static, bound laterally by the edges of the panel. Two other assemblages, Image One Hundred Twenty-Seven and Image One Hundred Twenty-Eight, look almost like three-dimensional Paul Klee paintings.

Not much larger than these works, but substantially more powerful, Image One Hundred Thirty-Four and Image One Hundred Thirty (both 2011) are made of a series of wedges. The former is painted white—the color of an ordinary Sheetrock wall—while the latter is the color and consistency of tar. Each piece consists of four wedges mounted vertically, pointing alternately up and down, on a gypsum panel. The edges of the forms face out, and the spaces between them become deep channels. Standing in front of either piece, you have a sense of looking into the interior machinery of a mechanism, without being able to see directly what that mechanism does.

Photo: Joseph Montgomery: Image One Hundred Thirty, 2011, cedar, lacquer, oil and plastic on gypsum panel, 16 1/4 by 11 3/4 by 6 3/4 inches; at Laurel Gitlen.