Adam Marnie installation shot at James Fuentes LLC (photo by author)

At James Fuentes, a gallery on the Lower East Side, a four-artist exhibition pays testament to the influence of minimalism on contemporary artists. Yet these homages aren’t just a rehash of surface fetishist Donald Judd or the austere conceptualism of a Carl Andre brick grid. This is DIY minimalism, knock-down drag-out rough and tumble sculptures that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

Adam Marnie, one artist of the quartet making up Noam Rappaport, Tracy Thomason, Daniel Subkoff, & Adam Marnie at James Fuentes, takes on minimalism in a very physical, hands on way: he appropriates construction materials, beats them up, and re-encases them for display in an interesting reversal of minimalism’s often aloof perfectionism. In his four works included in the exhibition, Marnie punches holes through drywall, breaks glass, and massacres cardboard, all in the service of creating a powerful, physical piece of art.

Adam Marnie, “Untiled (itself inset)” (2010) (image from James Fuentes LLC)

“Object Split Infinite” (2010) is a constructed cube, knocked together out of drywall, plywood and white paint. The piece takes the perfection of its form and instead of embracing its immaculate geometry chooses to break it, splitting the cube into two halves. Inside each half of the cube is a smaller box, a spatial construction inside a spatial construction. Holes puncture the outer surfaces of Marnie’s box, wounds that the artist made himself by kicking and punching at his materials. Yet the entirety of “Object Split Infinite” is covered in a facade formed by framed plate glass, bordered in clean white. Thus the sculpture turns in on itself, a fetishizing the broken surface, like a voodoo doll for modernism.

Marnie continues his work with this tension between perfect and broken surfaces in his other works, though the shallow volumes of his more two dimensional pieces “Untitled (diamond inset)” (2010) and “Untitled (itself inset)” (2010) aren’t quite as eloquent. These surfaces shatter like the glass of Duchamp’s dropped “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors.” Continuing the same blank-faced pallet of broken off-whites, the pieces are effective in their simultaneous embrace and critique of minimalism.

I don’t know that I’d like to see an entire gallery of works like the ones Marnie shows at James Fuentes, but placed in a corner of this exhibition, they dominate their space extraordinarily, the amputated leftovers of some more perfect artist.

Noam Rappaport, Tracy Thomason, Daniel Subkoff, & Adam Marnie runs at James Fuentes (44 Delancey St.) through December 23. Stay tuned for more highlights from the exhibition.

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly, Kill Screen, Creators...