Like the contents of a tipped-over drawer, this exhibition by Norwegian novelist and artist Matias Faldbakken seems to have slid to one side of Paula Cooper’s main gallery. Faldbakken reimagines the space as a scaled-up receptacle for odds and ends, a characteristic move for an artist who often uses gas cans, gym lockers, burlap sacks and boxes as raw materials.
Mostly empty, the room is dominated by a trio of concrete traffic barriers running along one wall. They act as counterweights for three aluminum ladders set among the rafters of the gallery’s high ceiling—each one apparently bent in place by tension from colorful ratchet straps looped around the barriers. As in much of Faldbakken’s work, these sculptures combine spectacle with an offsetting refusal to communicate.
Behind the barriers, Faldbakken has piled copies of a self-published newsprint broadside. They contain no text, however, only images such as a row of vodka bottles with scratched-off labels. In a nearby room hangs a series of flattened cardboard boxes in frames. They recall Robert Rauschenberg’s “Cardbirds,” but eschew the latter’s theatricality. “Get your hands out of my trousers,” the Buzzcocks once sang, and Faldbakken’s formally elegant work evokes much of the same punkish refusal to be aroused—proving that blankness can be a subject for art.