But then I interviewed Woff for a Hyphen magazine article (stay tuned) and she mentioned, among other, more idiosyncratic influences, Louise Nevelson as a role model in her "pomp" and confidence. So when I was there last weekend to see Mike's show, I took in the Nevelson as well, on coincidentally its last day.
That was a great show, especially the first four rooms: one of those lovely, simple moments when the curators and the preparators and everybody gets their shit together and comes up with a complete experience that IS an experience ... but also shows off each individual piece to its best advantage.
Case in point: the entrance contained two pieces--a self portrait, and one of her "cathedral" walls of boxes. Each was set apart from the other, displayed in contrasting and theatrical styles. The cathedral piece stood against a wall and was placed so that the viewer had to stand right up before it without gaining distance; the self-portrait in front of a sheer screen and lighted dramatically from above, so that you could walk around the dividing wall and see the shadow of the piece from behind.
The second and third galleries were full of these black-painted-wood "cathedral" pieces, all stacks of open-faced boxes filled with found pieces of wood: lathe-turned table legs and the scraps of circular cut-outs, wedges, blocks, discarded moldings, etc. The genius of these two galleries was that each piece was set against a dark grey wall and lighted by two or three blue-gelled frenells. Far from obscuring the black-on-black piece, this color scheme turned out to be the best way to pick out the movement and blockage of shadow Nevelson built in. The modulation of shadow and surface that Nevelson plays with is so complete and sophisticated, that you don't need a high-contrast lighting scheme to make it come out. On the contrary, you need mood lighting. This was proven out by two later galleries which lighted black pieces in white to no great effect.
When I stood before the first cathedral piece in the entrance, I felt as if I was standing before a bank of speakers. I could almost hear music, the synesthesia of the experience was so strong. I had to concentrate hard, like when looking for the figure inside a 3-D dot graphic, but I could almost hear music throughout the exhibition.
Then I emerged from the faux-gloom into a room full of light, and white-wooden pieces of the "Dawn" series. After being dazzled for a moment, I noticed that, although strongly lighted, the pieces didn't create a high contrast between lighted surface and shadow. The white paint and varied forms of the sculptures' components reflected light in various directions around the pieces, modulating the play of light and shadow in remarkably complex and subtle ways.
The subsequent galleries, while impressive, weren't overwhelming. They were more a hodgepodge of miscellaneous great work, such as an entire room constructed on her scrap-box plan, plexiglas pieces, and paper reliefs. The first galleries, though were like the first two movements of a symphony, that tracked the sounds of night and daybreak.
Pompous? Probably, but what symphony isn't? Fabulous is more like it.