A Lisson Gallery Exhibition Contemplates the True Meaning of Sculpture
At New York’s Lisson Gallery, an unfettered approach to sculpture is the driving force behind a new group exhibition. On view through August 5, “The Odds Are Good, The Goods Are Odd” presents the work of 11 groundbreaking New York City–based contemporary artists. In the exhibition, sculptures are a metaphor. The presentation is filled with a broad variety of pieces that may evoke, prompt, or signify.
While the artists featured bring a wide array of approaches to materials and process, the works on display are linked by their labor-intensive methods of making, as well as by their shared interests in the body and the psyche. Many of the works could be viewed as “social sculptures,” mining history in an attempt to renew (or course-correct) certain narratives. There is a sense of renewed tradition from this group who invigorate methods of making with a new rigor and confront issues surrounding society, including human rights, identity, and sexuality.
Two sculptures by Jes Fan explore biology and identity, and directly involve the body. “Rack I” (2022) was built to the scale of the artist’s body, while “Clavicle Repeated Four Times” (2022) was molded from an ex-partner’s body. In Hannah Levy’s corporeal forms, flesh seems to merge with animalistic prosthetics as drooping and melting plastic gives way to metal. “Untitled” (2022) stretches skin-like silicone around a ring of polished steel bird-like talons, yet resembles a vaguely familiar ottoman.
Leilah Babirye’s haunting sculptures examine the history and hierarchy in the kingdom of Buganda within Uganda, the artist’s home country. Her glazed ceramic figures incorporate found materials such as the inner tubes of bicycle tires and copper wires, and are given titles that refer to Ugandan clans as a way to honor her heritage while reclaiming the cultural traditions and historical narrative of the country.
Sculptures by Doreen Lynette Garner employ the lens of history to point to and underline inequities in medicine, investigating past and ongoing medical experimentation, malpractice, and the exploitation of Black women’s bodies in the United States, drawing parallels to the continuation of oppression and displacement. “Known but to God: The Dug Up, Dissected, and Disposed for the Sake of Medicine” (2017) evokes body fluids, parts, and human remains in its use of disparate materials: epoxy, glass, pearls, silicone, steel, Swarovski crystals, and whiskey.
With her three sculptures that elicit the interiority of mental states, Elizabeth Jaeger turns inward and toward a contemplative mood. At the gallery’s entrance, Hugh Hayden’s immense sculpture depicting a zebra skeleton is rigorously crafted from cypress branches sourced from the southeastern United States. It seems to suggest camouflage as a metaphor for blending in.
At the end of the gallery, in a chapel-like listening room, Devon Turnbull, founder of the hi-fi audio equipment company Ojas (his pen name), has installed a serene space for week-long musical and audio related programs throughout the run of the exhibition. His first foray into the artistic realm of sculpture, Turnbull’s installation creates an immersive experience that expands the visual and intellectual into the auditory.
Taken together, the works on view in this tightly curated show suggest how nature and society are constantly reshaping one another and how sculpture can be a means of provocation. This well-chosen grouping effectively executes this simple—yet thorny—concept.