Frieze New York 2017

The Walls Can Hear: Kevin Beasley Sculptures Listen While You Look at Frieze

Kevin Beasley, Phasing (Flow), 2017, at Frieze New York.KATHERINE MCMAHON/ARTNEWS

Kevin Beasley, Phasing (Flow), 2017, at Frieze New York.


Watch what you say around Kevin Beasley’s sculptures in Casey Kaplan’s booth at Frieze—lest your trenchant insights and charming bon mots be broadcast in ways that could compromise. Hidden from view above fairgoers’ heads are two microphones tuned to pick up ambient sounds in their proximity, with sound gear on the floor that processes the real-time recordings and transmits them back as a sort of abstracted din.

“All the sounds that are outside our stand are now inside our stand,” Kaplan said. “Earlier, people were pushing carts through and the sound was super-amazing. Now conversations that are here”—he pointed at a spot in the middle of the booth—“become totally audible over there. You have to be careful.”

Kevin Beasley, Sock n Rag Shells (Downtime), 2017.KATHERINE MCMAHON/ARTNEWS

Kevin Beasley, Sock n Rag Shells (Downtime), 2017.


The sound elements are part of two large sculptures—Phasing (Ebb) and Phasing (Flow), both 2017—that hang on the wall, with colorful swatches of house dresses, kaftans, and du-rags hardened with resin and arranged in colorful blasts. Other of the 16 Beasley works on view include standing floor pieces made with similar house dresses—suggestive of disembodiedness and domesticity—and wall pieces that enlist different materials.

Slab I (2017) mixes the severed brims of New Era baseball hats with polyester kaftans made in Pakistan; one of the kaftan tags reads, endearingly, “ONE SIZE FITS MOST.” Two other works include seashells, from Beasley’s recent residency with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in Captiva Island, Florida. Other vestiges of the artist’s time in the Sunshine State figure in Beasley work elsewhere, like a formidable golf-bag sculpture in the artist’s recently opened show at the Casey Kaplan gallery in the Flower District of Manhattan.

Don’t miss that show, which runs through June 17—it’s tremendous. And don’t miss the works under the tent either—so long as you think before you speak.

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