Lindsay Pichaske, “Everything That Rises”
Lindsay Pichaske, “Everything That Rises”

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“Everything That Rises,” a solo show by sculptor Lindsay Pichaske, draws its title from Flannery O’Connor’s 1965 collection of short stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge. It’s a shame that’s all she borrowed from O’Connor’s Southern Gothic suite. Pichaske employs human hair and spider-web design—materials that presage work about death, or at least work that takes a pessimistic view of the human condition. But Pichaske’s art isn’t the least bit troubling. In fact, it’s all rather cute.

Precious isn’t the goal here. Looking into the gallery from the entrance, the viewer sees the show’s title piece, a vast spider web that covers both the walls and ceilings of the space. A representative for the Chinatown gallery said Pichaske spent three weeks carefully threading yard after yard of silver twine, and her work shows: The piece doesn’t take any shortcuts. Pichaske might have made the whole way impassible, obstructing the viewer’s access to the work (and seriously messing with any arachnophobes in her audience). Instead, she leaves a wide berth for viewers—and includes one element that would be more effective if it weren’t so inviting.

Suspended inside the web toward the back of the gallery is the outline of a form that suggests the skeleton of a horse, an equine sketch made with human hair. It’s a three-dimensional fabric installation that, like the web, won’t make anyone’s skin crawl. With its large and almost friendly features, the horse piece seems oddly cheery. After all, where there’s a spider web, you’d think there would be a spider, or at least a spider’s lunch.

Three other drawings in the show—of a mare, a deer, and an ape, done in human hair on muslin—suffer from the same juxtaposition (or lack thereof). Human hair seems too pointed a medium to be deployed without comment (unless doing so is a kind of meta-commentary). These drawings are lukewarm, natural-ish fabric works. They might as well be made from string. Or graphite. They might as well not be in the show at all.

Artist Eva Hesse lingers over “Everything That Rises”—practically inevitable, when you’re dealing with massless sculpture made from string and anxiety. But while the title piece occupies the same kind of physical space as Hesse’s 1960s post-Minimalist sculptures, the same can’t be said for its headspace. Hesse’s haunting biomorphic systems are always poised on the brink of psychological collapse. As with the nod to O’Connor, Pichaske’s reference is incomplete. For Pichaske to tackle the real terrors out there—Hesse found them inside herself, O’Connor saw them in other people—her work would require a conceptual rethink. With “Everything That Rises,” Pichaske weaves an elaborate web, but catches very little.