Lone and Level
“Look on my Works, ye mighty, and despair!” reads the inscription on the base of the colossal statue of Pharaoh Ramses II in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias.” But beside the shattered statue, once the marvelous symbol of a strongman’s rule, lies an expanse of nothingness: “The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
“Lone and Level,” the Tel Aviv-born, New York-based Oren Pinhassi’s first solo show with Helena Anrather, includes four sculptures made of plaster and sand, some standing as high as eight feet, which are like caryatids broken free of the structures they once supported. One, with a large, flat, disc-like head, is threaded through with pearl-bracketed shower curtain rings, like earrings, above a lean, frontally symmetrical body balanced atop an uneven stone. Another, bright green and multi-armed, springs from the wall, also threaded with pearly jewelry, like a marker at a votive or burial site.
Arranged around the floor of the room are vinyl-encased packets of play sand reminiscent of tatami floor mats, upon which viewers are invited—required, even, in order to view the entire exhibition—to walk or recline. Look closely, and you’ll notice that patches of condensation have risen to the surface, as if the sand were alive. Indeed, Shelley’s poem is a parable about the inevitable disintegration not only of political power but of artistic prowess. Just as the verisimilitude of Shelley’s half-sunk visage was crafted with a skilled and now-anonymous hand, so too could Pinhassi’s caryatids in time join the sands that surround them—or, indeed, the sands could rise up to give form to new life.
Oren Pinhassi, Untitled (Little Shower), 2021. Steel, sand, polymer, rock, and shower curtain rings, 75.5 x 16 x 10.5 inches.