The Nasher’s current Sightings exhibition brings the work of Dublin-born Eva Rothschild to the musuem’s transitional zones. Why Don’t You (Dallas) invites visitors to consider typically overlooked surfaces, features, and interstices within the entrance gallery and space beneath it.
Molded with fiberglass and epoxy, the initial industrial rigidity of the extensive network of tubing gives way to a dimpled and handmade surface. Upon close inspection, it’s clear that the alternating bands of glossy black and color are painted by hand, though with steady pacing and precision. Rothschild’s work appears deliberate and mathematically installed, but it also flows with a playful, free reign—making appearances on admissions desks, rounding benches, and climbing throughout the upper gallery. The ease with which it flows generates a lightness that allows viewers to think of the structure as hollow, despite an inevitable hidden armature.
Straddling disciplines as it continuously cycles from line into plane and form, Why Don’t You (Dallas) is the artist’s most ambitious installation in this banded style. Having already created a number of reductive sculptures and an outdoor work in New York’s Central Park, Rothschild executes a deeper investigation at the Nasher that falls more in line with her 2009 installation at Tate Britain. Not quite a question or demand, the title loosely implies freedom and risk but doesn’t weigh the piece down with specific ideas. Rothschild’s aim seems to encourage looking and exploring more than thinking through concepts.
As much as it highlights the possibilities of the surrounding space, the work announces its own form and skin. To secure this balance, the piece requires bold coloration for agency, or it might merely point to everything but itself. Accordingly, the spectrum set against the Nasher’s warm oak and travertine surfaces separates the form from the building. Rothschild leads our eyes to normally overlooked territory: air vents, audio equipment, handrails, and corners, and then recaptures that attention with a jarring palette that mixes pastels with saturated hues.
A brief dive into the lower level is the installation’s most engaging and worthwhile characteristic. Causing the viewer to suspect a hidden site of origin, curiosity forces a trip downstairs where one finds that the pipeline merely rounds down to the floor and hugs the underbelly of the footbridge. Why Don’t You (Dallas) has no beginning and no end, calling to mind the Ouroboros (an ancient and archetypal figure of a serpent eating its own tail that spans many cultures)—a cousin of the strange loop that invokes grand ideas about creation, cycles, and communication.
By spanning both the upper and lower galleries, Rothschild reminds us that we do not experience architectural volumes in isolation. Part of the pleasure of being in the lower level gallery, is a subtle awareness that one is underneath and set apart—viewing work is just a bit more private and intimate. Conversely, the pleasure of the entrance gallery is its openness and connection to the sky, garden, street, and stair—its many choices and pathways to other spaces. To imagine the entire artwork requires one to also conjure both containing rooms as a mutually dependent whole that can only be understood through movement. And it is between these rooms that one finds the most appropriate location to view Rothschild’s loop: travelling up or down the stairs. Here, the viewer can spend time in the vertical center of the installation, engaging the mobility the work was surely designed to elicit.
Images: Eva Rothschild, Why Don’t You (Dallas), 2012. aluminum, fiberglass, epoxy, polyurethane paint, lacquer