I attribute it to serendipity that there are currently two fantastic sculpture shows in the Williamsburg galleries. One is by Greg Barsamian, who creates simple sculptural forms filled with Eadward Muybridge-like animations out of metal, and the other by the masterful Shari Mendelson, who always finds a way to transform banal plastic refuse into beautiful things.

A view of Greg Barsamian’s installation at Pierogi Boiler (mobile phone photo)

Greg Barsamian at Pierogi Boiler

I’d never heard of the New York-based Gregory Barsamian but now I’ll definitely notice his name. His kinetic sculpture “Artifact” (2010) is the main attraction in his solo show at Pierogi’s industrial Boiler space, and it was originally commissioned by the very odd — in that millionaire-opens-contemporary-art-museum kinda way — Museum of Old and New (MONA) in Hobart, Tasmania. The resulting work is a head that seems to have toppled from some monumental ancient sculpture and landed in Williamsburg. The metal sculpture is lit from inside and light spills out of the carefully placed crevices and holes on the exterior.

Only when you peer inside the massive head do you understand how special this sculpture is. In what I can only describe as a 1920s version of a dreamscape on acid, birds, hats, eggs and other forms whirl around inside to create the illusion of three-dimensional animation. The movement creates a sound like a film projector and its syncopated rhythm.

I shot a very short video with my mobile phone only because I knew it would be near impossible to describe it (it is posted above). The true power of the work became evident to me a few days later when I couldn’t stop thinking about the animation inside and the sensation of wonderment I experienced staring at the scultpure, something I rarely encounter nowadays.

Greg Barsamian’s Private View is on view at Pierogi Boiler (191 N14th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn) until July 31.

Shari Mendelson at Sideshow Gallery

A view of Shari Mendelson’s carefully crafted objects at Sideshow Gallery (photo by the author) (click to enlarge)

One of Mendelson’s impressive large scultpures covered with what may be melted wax. (photo the author) (click to enlarge)

You’ve got two days left to see the Translations in the Ubiquitous Largesse show with Paul Baumann and Shari Mendelson at Sideshow Gallery, so you better run. While the whole show is intriguing, Mendelson — as always — stands out. She has taken plastic refuse (mostly disposable bottle parts from what I can tell) and created rather intricate objects that resemble Roman, Byzantine or early Islamic glass or rock crystal vessels. But beyond what could be construed as an environmental gimmick, Mendelson’s objects don’t only provide eco-commentary but feel more attuned to a futurist sensibility that is not weighed down by doom and gloom.

Her small sculptures remind me of African folk objects that are fashioned out of tin cans or other unorthodox materials on hand. Some of the pieces are covered with wax (or resin? not sure) that hides the seams of its construction. Mendelson’s objects are tapped into some skewed pseudo-futurist vision where trash will be revered for its beauty — a form of neo-punk utopianism that we don’t see enough of today.

In an esssay that accompanies the show, Matthew Seidman accurately describes the objects as, “Vessels warty, monstrous, elegant.” He goes on to make an interesting observation:

Two things are said to be the sign of human cilivization: the handmade vessel and organized waste. The womb and the asshole. Our hole life. And human desire is said to bend around itself. In speech.

I know, I can’t stop laughing at the “hole life” part but — while it obviously simplifies civilization for poetic effect — it seems accurate. There’s a yin-yang in these objects that make them fascinating.

Shari Mendelson is showing in Translations in the Ubiquitous Largesse at Sideshow Gallery (319 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn) continues until THIS SUNDAY JULY 18!

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

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