The parking lot of Perfect Bodies, a former auto repair shop in Red Hook, hosted an identically titled exhibition by the Mexican-born artist Bosco Sodi. Presented by the nearby Brooklyn nonprofit Pioneer Works and curated by Dakin Hart, senior curator of the Noguchi Museum and Sculpture Garden in Long Island City, it stopped viewers in their tracks. The show was visible anytime through a chain-link fence, but open to the public only on weekends, or by appointment: pandemic rules. But either way, art outdoors was a much-needed boon.
Sodi, a prolific artist with a nearly thirty-year career and an international profile, is best known for two types of work. His jumbo-size monochrome paintings are bulked up with brilliantly colored pigments, their cracked surfaces resembling natural phenomena. His powerful primary structures in a variety of materials are often equally vivid in hue. With a studio in Red Hook, Sodi is a longtime presence in this industrial waterfront neighborhood, where fishing less than perfect bodies out of the surrounding bay was once not uncommon.
The installation’s two dozen mottled, irregular clay forms—cuboids and spheroids of various sizes, some weighing upward of 1,000 pounds—were erratically beautiful, depending on the available light. They occupied the space with charismatic assurance, as if they had just touched down from locations unknown, from once and future time zones, like those in a Ted Chiang sci-fi story. These works might seem at home in a wild, overgrown field in a remote region of the world, like remnants of an ancient (or alien) culture stumbled upon by chance. But they were more startling here, where the contrasting industrial site and the handcrafted objects, each a challenge to the other, increased the formal tension. Meanwhile, the fissures in the parking lot pavement reinforced the artist’s signature theme, suggesting that despite our ingenuity and best efforts, nature eventually has its way with us.
So why not collaborate? Sodi—deeply engrossed by process, organic materials, and experimentation—is adept at knowing when and how to let go. Antoni Tàpies is a hero of his, as is Joan Miró, and traces of l’art informel, Gutai, Zen Buddhist art, Abstract Expressionism, Earth art, and other self-surrendering movements are evident in his work. The sourcing of his pigments and other materials, which come from all over the world, is essential to Sodi’s practice. In this instance, the clay was from Oaxaca, where he has a studio in Puerto Escondido, the site of the Tadao Ando–designed international residency he founded in 2014.
The sculptures were fired there in improvised outdoor kilns on the beach and trucked to Brooklyn across the Mexico-United States border, in a kind of symbolic immigration. Their earthy colors, the palette of cave paintings and prehistoric pottery, and their bruised, broken skins—sometimes powdered and gritty, sometimes slicked with patches of glaze—are all contingent, depending on the fortuities of the process. Perfect in their imperfection, these works proclaim Sodi’s belief in the non-duplicatable, the incomplete, and, perhaps most affirmatively during the turmoil of the
past year, the ongoing.