Adrián Villar Rojas excels at site-specific works that oscillate among historical, symbolic and spatial effects. One brought him wide attention when he represented Argentina at the 2011 Venice Biennale. Since then, he has become a staple at these large international exhibitions. Working mostly in situ in cast concrete with a team of assistants, he may have single-handedly made a complement of “festivalist art,” originally a pejorative coined for the grandiose installations of such shows.
Emphasizing space over objects, Mr. Villar Rojas’s first solo in a New York gallery transforms two large spaces into abandoned sites. Using only natural light, he has covered the entire floor with cast-concrete tiles (made individually with a jeweler), and all walls and windows with pale, full-length drapes.
The gallery’s north space is redolent of an abandoned theater or ballroom. The geometric patterns of the black, white and gray tiles also evoke a sad, emptied-out fashion showroom or a fancy store that could easily have preceded this very art gallery. A dark area of concrete mixed with earth might once have been occupied by a sales counter, but could also be a yard of packed earth. All kinds of detritus embedded in the tiles — leaves, pebbles, iPods, sun-faced Argentine coins, shattered glass, plastic bags — imply different forms of decay and neglect.
The south space feels less grim, more Mediterranean, like a crumbling terrace. The tiles ebb and flow among blues and grays, like bodies of water or the sky; bicycle tires and rope break their surfaces. The light, changing throughout the day, improves. A fallen statue here turns out to be Michelangelo’s “David,” reimagined as a reclining nude (and 18 inches taller than the original). He rests on two high, narrow bases that raise him disconcertingly to eye level. His sex is obscure; he merges the figures on Michelangelo’s Medici Tomb — the male Dusk and the female Dawn — and is more asleep than either. You may also be reminded of Aristide Maillol’s reclining bronze female nude, “The River,” in a similar pose, facing the same direction a few blocks south in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art.
—by Robarta Smith — Sept 26 , 2015, Friday NYTimes