NEW YORK — For the past three decades the northernmost stretch of the High Line, between 30th and 34th streets, has remained largely unaltered, growing wilder and more elegantly decrepit every season. Now the Geneva-born, Red Hook-based artist Carol Bove has installed seven of her works atop the elevated industrial railroad, her choices of materials and finishes contrasting with and complimenting the changing cityscape that serves as both setting and backdrop for the exhibition, “Caterpillar.”
Bove created six new pieces for the show, and the one older work — “Monel,” a giant bronze plate nearly a foot thick that she exhibited at Documenta 13 last year — has changed dramatically since its previous presentation. When her studio flooded during Hurricane Sandy the bronze block was damaged, its slick surface blooming with patterns of turquoise and red that will continue to change as they undergo a year of New York weather. It will look positively prehistoric surrounded with overgrown grass come summertime. The exhibition's smallest piece, “Visible Things and Colors,” a Tetris-like assemblage of a system of brass grids interlocking with a matching block of concrete, introduces a certain preciousness into the inhospitable post-industrial landscape. Its form and materials also evoke the countless luxury apartment towers rising quickly in the background.
The bulk of the exhibition consists of two series of works, one completely in keeping with the High Line's past, and the other at once sleek and playful in its smooth futurism. Two of the three pieces in the “Glyphs” series were assembled by Bove on-site, their rusty steel I-beams inevitably calling to mind the old train tracks that they straddle. “These are very masculine sculptures,” High Line Art director and curator Cecilia Alemani said during a recent tour of the exhibition's 300-yard-long site. Though they do remind one of the likes of Mark di Suvero or Anthony Caro, there's a certain sharpness, clarity, and Juddian simplicity to their forms that distinguishes Bove's pieces and counterintuitively makes them seem lightweight.
The other series, represented here by a pair of sculptures that includes the piece that gives the exhibition its title — a twirling, coiling, tube-like form finished in glossy white — stand out against the rusted train tracks and wild shrubs like alien objects that dropped from the sky. Their winding forms and shining white surfaces, achieved by triple-layering coats of white powder, have an incredible amount of personality and are surprisingly funny.
The smaller of the two, “Prudence,” is the first sculpture that visitors will encounter on the tour and frames the view toward the rest of the exhibition like a giant telescope. But it also serves as a portal to a place that is simultaneously past, present, and future, with its dilapidated rail line and shimmering river abutting the busy Hudson Yards rail depot, the Orwellian Javits Center, and the glassy condo towers rising in the distance. In such a fundamentally surreal setting, Bove's sculptures are a natural fit.