Last time British sculpture and Turner Prize recipient Antony Gormley showed in New York, he invaded Madison Square Park and environs. Life-casts in metal of his own naked form stood sentinel under leafy boughs, and upon nearby rooftops, where they appeared like jumpers contemplating the void. Elegant and existential, his site-specific project was a meditation on the way the human body knits itself into the urban fabric, physically and psychologically. His current exhibition, which inaugurates Sean Kelly’s capacious new location at 36th Street and Tenth Avenue, is no less refined, no less concerned with the individual’s projection into space, and no less exquisitely balanced between formalism and emotion.
A relatively small scatter of mostly figurative sculptures, forged in solid steel or bent out of medium-gauge rods, take up the gallery’s large rooms, on the floor as well as on or against the walls. Some weigh upwards of nine tons (or tonnes, I suppose, in this instance), and it is this contrast of mass and generously apportioned turf that gives the works their collective frisson. The forms themselves are rendered in a style that could be called digital-cubism, as if Georges Braque and Donald Judd had a loud argument over who got to use the 3-D printer.
Most of the shapes seem to just obdurately exist right in front of you, but one is shown balled up, perhaps in agony or suffering some sort of nervous breakdown. It’s precisely this quality—a sense of humanism expressed as a conversation between viewer and viewed—that distinguishes Gormley’s brand of heavy metal from Richard Serra’s absolutist variety.