Andrea Cohen's "Cabin Daddy," 2012, Hydrocal plaster,… (Walter Maciel Gallery )
In her last solo show at Walter Maciel Gallery, in 2008, New York artist Andrea Cohen presented two parallel bodies of work: frail, spindly, freestanding sculptures made from tree branches, vinyl and flat, cut out sheets of Styrofoam, among other odds and ends; and stout, gnarled, pedestal-mounted sculptures made by carving into a solid block of Styrofoam. The former alluded to the craggy shapes and vertical manner of Chinese landscape painting; the latter to the desk- or garden-bound tradition of the Chinese scholar rock.
For the current show, she’s split the difference, to some degree, creating small, solid, materially unified works that sit on a pedestal but echo the varied textures and complex negative spaces found in the earlier freestanding sculptures. These works are neither built nor carved but cast in hard, slick, Hydrocal plaster. They register the textures of Cohen’s materials — plastic, vinyl, bubble wrap and so on — with a precision almost equal to the materials themselves, yet exude the elegant, cohesive air of marble, tinted with swirls pink, yellow and gray.
They’re modest but deeply engaging objects that speak to the depths of Cohen’s formal curiosity. To make something so engaging out of what is literally nothing — the negative space formed by materials that many would consider trash to begin with — is no small feat.
Walter Maciel Gallery, 2642 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 839-1840, through July 7. www.waltermacielgallery.com