The central theme of Sarah Sze’s second solo exhibition at Victoria Miro was experimentation. Sze, who will represent the U.S. at the 2013 Venice Biennale, staged a series of encounters between scientific inquiry and the artistic process, presenting her signature site-specific installations in which everyday items of negligible consumer value amass and proliferate.
All five works in the downstairs gallery were “models for” some type of object. Model for a Print (all works 2012) brings to mind at once a laboratory, a construction site and an artist’s studio. On the wall, a photograph of nighttime snowfall, which could easily be read as an astronomical vista, is juxtaposed with a print. The latter sits face down on a tabletop extending horizontally from the wall below the photo; one corner curls up as if the print were in the process of being made, revealing what looks like a lunar landscape.
More displacements and disorientations of size and scale appear in Model for a Weather Vane. Here, a large rock, resting on a wooden base, supports a metal rod with multiple arms. Connected to the appendages are a cactus, a box of toothpicks, an apple and a carpenter’s level, to name only a few of the items. The rock suggests the movement of tectonic plates, while the cactus is a tiny token of the biosphere. The toothpicks could be thought of as a potential material for architectural construction. The light from a desk lamp affixed to the wall evokes the sun, and, on the floor, a small grouping of charcoal crayons serves as a cairn marking some unknown site.
Alone in the darkened gallery upstairs, Pendulum was the largest and most complex work in the show, its circular sweep conjuring a place for social assembly. Arranged on a series of supports-tallest at the outer rim of the circle-were many of Sze’s more familiar objects: stepladders and electric fans, desk lamps and drinking glasses, photographs of natural vistas and rocks wound with string. There were also leafy plants, dead mice and fish skeletons made from plastic, paper or clay. Together with the survivalist paraphernalia (stacked water bottles and saltine crackers, for example) found in other areas of the partial enclosure, these forms read as portents of ecological threat.
Other objects in this piece-most prominently, the eponymous pendulum-referred to measurement only to subvert expectations. Pendulums are often used to demonstrate the Earth’s rotation; the one here hung from a ceiling motor that caused it to swing unpredictably. If this show explored the notion of sustainable living, Sze seemed to be saying that there is no certainty regarding its outcome.
Photo: Sarah Sze: Model for a Weather Vane, 2012, mixed mediums, 136 by 150 by 56 inches; at Victoria Miro.