If you don’t remind yourself that the four objects (all 2016) in Stephen Lichty’s second solo exhibition are the products of human labor and experience, they might seem otherworldly. The artist produced Bowl, a three-foot-diameter floor sculpture, in collaboration with an expert in urushi, an ancient Japanese lacquer. The perfection of the lacquer makes the giant bowl hard to look at. It dissolves, reflects, shimmers—always dodging the prosaic form suggested by the title. Bell is a bronze bell sans clapper that’s been placed in a small niche in a wall near the gallery entrance. The checklist identifies the pile of dust inside the bell as cremains: the arrangement is an austere vanitas. Made of oiled walnut, Screen is an ambiguous piece of furniture that combines a room divider with a small bench. Its proportions are ideal and its craftsmanship is meticulous, but what is it? It slips between categories: custom seating, theatrical prop, Minimalist sculpture. The final piece in the exhibition—and “final” is appropriate because Snake is the climax and anticlimax to the show—features a huge stuffed python on the floor. Lichty placed one gold ring in the snake’s fangs and another around its partly coiled body. It shatters the exhibition’s solemn atmosphere with a dose of spectacle, even bathos. It also clarifies an underlying unity in Lichty’s sculptures. Their symbolic aspects, including evocations of death and the occult, are intertwined with and amplified by the crafting of natural materials. —William S. Smith
Pictured: Stephen Lichty: Snake, 2016, taxidermy snake and bronze, 36 by 58 by 7½ inches. Courtesy Foxy Production, New York. Photo Mark Woods.