I’m pretty sure most if not all of Halsey Rodman’s exhibition The Birds at Guild & Greyshkul succeeds, though I have written about four drafts of this column trying to come to a firm conclusion. Elegantly gracing the gallery walls, seven three-dimensional hexagonal shapes and two gouache paintings of feet represent the more traditional art objects in the show. Two awkward tables shelving clay feet, an array of bottles and aluminum foil knick-knacks fill the interior exhibition space, along with a chair spewing a cloud of bent aluminum piping, a cluster of multicolored pedestals and a black, tubed sculpture encasing a fluorescent light.
Among the more obviously successful pieces are the Touch Eye Portals, a series of wall-mounted sculptures that look like time machines attacked by painters from the 1980s. These works are a Dr. Who-meets-neo-expressionism tour de force. Similarly moving, in the northeast corner of the gallery, three blackened pipes surround a slim, standing fluorescent light. Along the side of the pipe, the words “The Mist” are scratched into the surface both iterating and mocking the spiritual moment the piece evokes.
Other pieces in the show seem closer to performative documents of the art-making practice. The Birds, a grouping of twelve pedestals adorned with beer bottles and other studio castaways, presumably records the corresponding sessions in which the artist carefully sculpted of his friends’ feet in clay. The objects were then placed in a circular formation around the cluster of columns. Unlike similar-minded work in the show, this piece, aesthetically speaking, achieves resolution largely because it is more contained. The Wanderers, a giant table upon which Rodman once stood while the same twelve friends sculpted two versions of his feet in clay does not boast the same resolution. Preserving all traces of the art-making process, the stage is not cleaned and the feet are placed almost at random. The clay residue creates a reasonably engaging surface, but there are fewer visible seams and angled wood than in the other works, and the stage is without visual hooks. Similarly cumbersome, The Multipliers Feet, a rack with more sculpted feet, beer bottles and aluminum foil, sports an aggressively ugly black wire-y sculpture on its top shelf. Both this piece and the stage are made with such intentionality, though, that it seems misguided to read the artist’s choices as a failed effort to create the perfect object. Rather, the show as a whole should be read as an investigation of the inevitable successes and failures within studio practice.
I suppose in a perfect world the show might provide a slightly better balance of formal resolution to ugly sculpture — I still don’t know what to make of the chair-meets-bendy-aluminum-pipe situated at the far end of the gallery, and I continue to be mildly annoyed thinking about it. I suppose that’s the point though. No practice is without mixed results, and for the artist, learning to live with this is a job in and of itself.