Ross Rudel’s “Cosmos” at Ben Maltz Gallery

A cube is propped on a wedge in the corner of the room. At the low point it rises just above my head. Both structures (or the structure and the support) are made of wood. Beams line the outside of the box, from this I infer a finished, room-like interior; the wedge is smooth.

It is not regular, this pale wedge, it twists and I imagine that should it continue infinitely in both directions, it would bend in on itself. The nail pattern is regular, although inspired by some logic I don’t know. At one fat end of the wedge there is a circle of plywood cut out then screwed back on.

2 x 4’s serve as struts on the cube, these are fixed together using fat bolts. I notice a tiny pin-like nail at one corner and wonder why it is present. This gesture, if gesture it is and not oversight, is not repeated. On the downward facing side is an opening, as a window. Looking, I see in the pale and dim interior two light fixtures that – in defiance of gravity – hang stiffly from adjacent walls; does this make the walls into ceilings? My senses tell me so. A tall, slender stumped palm tree (or a very tall dripping grey and white candle) sticks out of a floor, in its headless state it arcs upward as if to its memory of light. This floor is canted, the room is skewed in union with the base. (Remember that phrase “skewed with its base.”)

I recall outsized phalluses that Rudel carved from wood and had mounted in provocatively carnal upward arcs from walls. Seeing the ambiguous totem in the present context makes me wonder about glory holes, and whether Rudel is thinking of them with this symbol. (Oh. And is that floor now also a wall?)

Stepping back, and circling again the construction I think of Richard Serra’s Torqued Ellipse sculptures and I appreciate Rudel’s soft touch with powerful disorientation.

I think now of the “white elephant” and of “the elephant in the room” and I think with melancholy about the skewed natures of our institutions, cultural and political. I worry that they loom above us, and that their bases might not be as well consstructed as is the base of Ross Rudel’s cube.

Meticulosity is at the Ben Maltz Gallery through July 7.

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