Edgar Orlaineta, "Spirits"

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Harry

Photograph: Courtesy Sara Meltzer Gallery

In the centerpiece series of this show, “Jardín Moderno (Modern Garden),” Mexican artist Edgar Orlaineta combines elements from classic modern furniture with living plants to evoke modernity’s obsolescence. Giuseppe and Maria features metal-lattice seats taken from a pair of Bertoia chairs turned onto their sides to form wings that flank a spherical succulent in a cheap plastic pot. Julio Florencio features a butterfly chair sprouting welded metal rings that support blooming bromeliads. Once ubiquitous in libraries, museums and bachelor pads, these iconic furnishings represent a utopian optimism that seems faded here, though their recycling as awkward planters does evoke hope as well as melancholy.

This idea is made explicit with Utopian Failure, in which five colored-glass globes house small cactus gardens. One hangs from the ceiling, while the others rest on plinths papered with photos from old books and magazines showing bubble-shaped visionary architecture and a naked hippie family. Taken as a whole, the work suggests that yesterday’s radical dreams have become the lifestyle accessories of the present.

The long walnut lozenge of Bird in Space, from a separate body of work, evokes Brancusi; bent on its long axis, carved and polychromed, it rests on the base of an Eames rocker and holds a plant, a folded postcard and a book of African sculpture. A gorgeously crafted, dysfunctional coffee table, it suggests that high modernist design has become a fetish in every sense of the word.

—Joseph R. Wolin

Sara Meltzer Gallery, through Feb 9