Art in General
79 Walker Street, TriBeCa
Through June 26
Cecilia Vicuna, an artist and poet born in Chile, was represented in 1997 Whitney Biennial with a work so spare it was easy to miss. An openwork web of cotton thread, it was hung high up near the gallery ceiling, and seemed to be more about emptiness than about materiality. Ms. Vicuna's solo show, which has already appeared at Hallwalls in Buffalo and Diverse Works in Houston, is physically more substantial, but equally elusive. The central piece is another net, this one made of several thick, soft ropes of alpaca wool that crisscross the room from wall to wall close to the floor, defining and obstructing space without filling it.
The piece carries clear references to Andean weaving, and the work in the second part of the show also touches on nature and craft. Arranged on a wide shelf -- Ms. Vicuna refers to it as the Poet's Table -- is a handful of tiny sculptural assemblages made from found materials: twigs, bits of shell, bone and yarn, the stub of a pencil. Fragments balance one on top of another in combinations that look both deliberate and accidental. A slight, wrong move, it seems, could upset their chancy balance.
Ms. Vicuna's studied, unglamorous reticence will not be to all tastes; the wool net in particular has a low visual wattage. Her work is best considered in terms of performance or gesture, or a certain kind of poetry. A comparison to haiku might be apt: formally spare, conceptually abstract, providing a nudge in the direction of feelings and ideas rather than a wrapped-up statement. (Ms. Vicuna will be giving two or three impromptu and unannounced outdoor performances, involving language and music, in the neighorhood of Art in General within the next few weeks.)