Rona Pondick: Works 2013 – 2018
On ViewZevitas Marcus
February 9 – March 30, 2019
Sculptor Rona Pondick signaled a major development in her work with her recent exhibitions in both New York and Los Angeles. Her show at Zevitas Marcus in Los Angeles is smaller than her New York exhibition but equally varied and unpredictable. Using a combination of casting, 3D printing, and hand modeling, Pondick has refined her methods of fabrication in pigmented resin and cast acrylic, which she combines in constantly changing relationships. Infused with painterly swirls of color, figural forms in resin made from casts of Pondick's own head float or are submerged in blocks of translucent acrylic, recalling Bruce Nauman's repurposing of color in his early castings of fiberglass and resin. These blocks, configured differently in each piece, generate larger structures: like the cages and platforms of Giacometti's sculptures, they constitute three-dimensional frames that establish formal display constraints and borders, even as the immersion of the forms within their translucent geometry makes establishing their own boundaries more difficult. Gone is the solid object in stainless steel that previously objectified Pondick's figural fantasies. Here, all is fluid luminosity. The color photographs in the lavishly illustrated catalogue dramatize the new filmic quality of these works, zooming in on suggestive, abstracted details as if in cinematic animation.
In moving her strange hybrid creatures, now encumbered with mysterious containers of murky light, from the gritty context of the Lower East Side to sunny Culver City, Pondick suggests links to science fiction fantasy movies, even as their focus on casts of her own head takes on associations with glamour and cosmetic surgery. Under the surreal calm of Pondick's impassive head, which links the six pieces on view, there's constant invention in figural forms and a rearrangement of elements that moves beyond the self-enclosed objects of her earlier sculptures.
As though adapting to the new, liquid environment, the creatures here seem stunted, reptilian. In Standing Blue (2015-17) an isolated head rises from a broad platform but is joined to a diminutive, frog-like body that trails a wake of leaves or petals and roots it to its base. In contrast, Encased Yellow Green (2017-18) generates a fully immersive environment, incorporating a rectangular green plane next to a head inflected with yellow and silver. Like one of Hans Hofmann's colored rectangles, the plane is poised, as his often are, against a gestural intervention, in this case, a fissure within the acrylic block.
While her adjustment of the layering and proportions of the base of each piece suggests a preoccupation with control, Pondick seems willing to accept such accidents in the casting process. She also makes occasionally radical moves: in Upside Down Magenta (2015-18) and Upside Down Blue (2014-17) she submerges both figure and base in an inverted arrangement. In the latter work, the rectangular container is deliberately skewed, as though to demonstrate her hands-on control. The only free-standing piece, Yellow Blue Black White (2013-18), rests close to the floor on a two-part base of white and yellow platforms that recall Donald Judd, while the poignancy of its tiny hands links it to the creatures of her previous work.
Commenting on her shift in stance, Pondick remarks to Lynn Zelevansky, who contributed a catalogue essay, that her subject is no longer "the body," but "my body." There are personal reasons behind her adoption of new materials, namely, the limitations imposed by a serious nerve injury that has restricted her work in the foundry and occasioned a new, painful bodily awareness. The seamlessly crafted, hybrid humans that were always central to Pondick's practice are now integrated into larger abstract structures, where immersion in translucent color evokes not only tropes of drowning or baptism but also their fusion with a generalized visual subconscious. Abandoning the security of the self-enclosed object, Pondick proposes engaging embodiments of psychic vulnerability.