A Different Kind Of Cube-ism
Wed, 09/15/2010
Staff Writer
Mika Rottenberg’s “Squeeze.”
Mika Rottenberg’s “Squeeze.”

The Argentine-born, Israeli-raised artist Mika Rottenberg, 33, has been toiling away in New York for more than a decade. She earned her BFA at the School of Visual Arts in 2000, and an MFA from Columbia four years later; ever since, she’s emerged as one of the city’s most promising young artists. That is what New York magazine wrote about her in 2007, including her in its Top Ten list of “Young Masters,” and by 2008, it seemed all but confirmed.

The inclusion of her gargantuan installation, “Cheese” — a handmade wooden shack, with a video of Rapunzel-like women making dairy products in the same structure — in the 2008 Whitney Biennial more or less stole that show. “You don’t know whether to think about grooming, barnyards, the means of production, or mythic beings’ doing bizarre things,” wrote the influential critic Jerry Saltz. But thinking is good, he implied, since Rottenberg’s work “lets you escape the art-world conventionality of so much of [the rest of] the show.”

This fall Rottenberg gets a solo exhibition at the Mary Boone Gallery, showing a new 20-minute film titled “Squeeze.” Much like her previous videos, she focuses on the production of things — in this case, rubbish. Rottenberg told Artforum this July, while the video was being shown at the San Francisco MOMA, that the piece “is about capturing energy and the way things are made.” More specific, the film shows various women building a globally sourced cube with rubber products from India, lettuce from Arizona and a few other assorted sundries. Rottenberg brought the women together to build the cube in a homemade structure she constructed in a Harlem studio. Like much of her work, the politics are clear: mainly, the exploitation of women and the working class on so many of the world’s industrial plants.

But her technique is so intricate, her critique patient and tempered, that you often find yourself transfixed by a process you’d otherwise abhor. Which, of course, is exactly the point.

Mary Boone Gallery, 745 Fifth Ave. (212) 752-2929. “Squeeze” exhibit runs from Oct. 30-Dec. 18.