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Allora & Calzadilla, Fault Lines

  • Art, Sculpture
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

While Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla may not be the most widely known artists out there, their collaborative efforts are a big deal on the international art scene. Their sculptural installations-cum-performances (the latest of which are at Gladstone Gallery) are characterized by an ambitious theatricality that has proven to be catnip for both curators and collectors. As U.S. representatives to the 2011 Venice Biennale, for example, they enlisted an athlete to run on a treadmill created out of an army tank flipped upside down to draw a connection between sports and militarism.

An undercurrent of combat continues here, at least verbally. A scatter of stepped plinths made of marble and granite (from perfectly cut and polished to craggy and rough) occupies the gallery, each fractured at an aesthetic angle between the upper and lower steps. The piece is activated by two young performers, boy choristers around 12 or 13, who clamber around the blocks, singing to each other in angelic voices. A closer listen reveals that they’re actually arguing, hurling taunts gleaned from texts written by Cicero, Shakespeare and others.

Like much of today’s big-ticket art, interpretation depends on a connection of dots that isn’t immediately apparent: The cracks in the rocks refer to the titular fault lines, as do the boys’ sublime vocal instruments, which, given their age, are on the precipice of breaking. Neither point is as interesting as the sonic dynamics of following the boys around or standing still to listen to their pitch change as they go from room to room.

While Allora and Calzadilla strive to combine commodifiable objects with ephemeral spectacle, the installation is little more than an empty stage without the kids, who perform on the hour for 12 minutes. If there’s a fault in this show, it lies with the gap between their presence and absence.—Howard Halle


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