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Big bold boats—and a win for the Albright-Knox

Aluminum canoes are actually a conservative choice for artist Nancy Rubins, who in the past has used electrical appliances, airplane parts, mattresses, water heaters, and—most recently—colorful kayaks for her monumental sculptures. Rubins is notorious for her ambitious repurposing—one of her most dramatic creations involved 10,000 pounds of mattresses and 1,000 pounds of cake, bound together by wire and suspended from the ceiling of the Whitney Museum in New York. Another mammoth construction—this time at MoMA—consisted of 10,000 pounds of salvaged airplane parts, also bound with wire and defying gravity.

It’s easy to imagine the sculpture Rubins has created for the Albright-Knox, which commands the space in front of the museum’s Elmwood Avenue entrance, inside some massive white gallery. Despite its huge size and its use of what some might consider unorthodox media (60-plus silver canoes), the sculpture is pure formality. It is not about boats, water, or salvage. There is no environmental message. It is a beautiful explosion of vaguely organic forms, alive with dynamic tension. Like some of the other abstract works outside of the museum, it transforms its raw materials and challenges the viewer to see the extraordinary within the ordinary. (But it's more fun.)

With this installation, the Albright-Knox calls a dramatic end to its adequate, if somewhat perfunctory treatment of its exterior landscape. We look forward to further developments.

P.S. Oh, and here's its name (It was christened last night): Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Monochrome I, Built to Live Anywhere, at Home Here

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