By Maximiliane Leuschner
Polaroids show Rosemarie Castoro in action. Some depict the artist lunging playfully, like a belligerent rodent, among the forty-two wooden stakes of her Beaver’s Trap, 1977, or resting sphinxlike below “exoskeletal auras” (Two-Play Tunnel, 1974). In another image, the self-styled “paintersculptor” dangles from a harness attached to her studio ceiling, performing balletic contortions in front of her abstract Symphony canvas from 1970. There is, however, little of this vivacity in “Working Out,” her UK debut. Despite its dynamic title—borrowed from a 1975 essay on Castoro written by Lucy R. Lippard for this magazine—the show evokes a certain stillness in its sparse and sterile arrangement of the late artist’s sculptures, which include series such as “Brushstrokes” and “Flashers.” Spanning the 1960s until the early 2000s, the sculptures meander somewhat chronologically between the two floors of Thaddaeus Ropac’s eighteenth-century townhouse on Dover Street, weaving a mysterious Ariadne’s thread.
“Working Out” culminates on the second floor, where a magnetic imprint titled Cracking sends a shiver across the gallery wall: a remnant of Castoro’s 1969 “Streetworks II” series, which saw the artist tape a block of downtown Manhattan with aluminum in order to transform the island into an atoll. Here, Cracking has been installed alongside Mountain Range, 2003–6, a steely and sturdy circular arrangement on the floor’s center. Yet it is the archival material in the corridor preceding this display—including photographs, drawings, and three mesh sculptures—that lingers in the mind. A series of sensuous misty mountain drawings was inspired by a successful double bypass surgery and impressions during a subsequent teaching post in Corciano, Italy, as were the “Mosquito Net Works,” 2000: Modeled after visceral, pulsating arteries, these hand-molded sculptures reflect a different sensibility toward the body, appearing delicate, yet not fragile; elusive, yet very static. While the “Mosquito Net Works” recall the industrial compositions of an Alan Saret or a Spencer Finch, the lines of the mountain drawings echo the taped-off boundaries of “Streetworks II.” It is precisely this show’s dialogue between older and newer work which achieves an active exchange between space and form, tracing the full trajectory of Castoro’s restless oeuvre.