Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot! Materials Battle at the New York Design Center

Launching as part of the fall programming at the New York Design Center is “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” a show co-curated by Elisa Contemporary’s Lisa Cooper and transFORM Gallery’s art director Kara O’Neill. This multi-media exhibition includes work by eight different artists employing the titular mediums and explores ways in which tools shape an  artwork’s development. It is exclusively concerned with the importance of craftsmanship and material over subject matter, and the curators have taken care to highlight artists who make use of both traditional and experimental techniques in their chosen materials. 

The “rock” is presented in its most literal form in the sculptures of Lubomir Tomaszewski, which take as their medium rock and metal—strong, figurative forms hewn from organic materials. On a more conceptual level, rock also becomes a stand-in for a natural element, as in the paintings by Mark Van Wagner, in which layers of softly pigmented sand are affixed to canvas in dreamlike, abstract compositions. It is further dematerialized in the innovative drawings of Hawaiian artist Wayne Zebzda, who applies smoke to canvas, manipulating the residue in a method similar to drawing with charcoal. 

Paper and its manipulator, scissors, are represented in diverse works which exhibit the vast potential of the medium. Glenn Fisher and Chilean artist Rodolfo Edwards both exhibit collages, but to very different effects: Fisher’s postmodern approach re-appropriates discarded books, magazines, and other scrapped textual items to create geometric compositions that hold a new storyline within them, while Edwards works with the purely visual. Californian artist Michael Buscemi creates three-dimensional rag paper collages—complicated pure-white constructions that evoke curling smoke, echoing the curves in Amy Genser’s three dimensional wall-based constructions, in which hundreds of tiny colored rolls of paper are affixed to a board in wave-like forms. The outliers of the group are the intricate drawings of Krzysztof Pastuszka, ink and watercolor renderings on paper of curious goings-on. 

Through each of these artists’ work, a common thread can be seen; in each work, the nature of the material itself is allowed to shine through, but the human hand is still evident. “Rock, Paper, Scissors” effectively demonstrates the variegated methods through which artists respond to their materials, and how the constraints and possibilities of these materials can allow for innovative artwork. 

—K. Sundberg

Rock, Paper, Scissors” is on view at the New York Design Center, Sept. 15–Nov. 21, 2014.

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