Time Out New York / June 17–23, 2010

Hany Armanious

During my visit to Hany Armanious’s “Birth of Venus,” gallery director Michael Gillespie leapt up from behind his desk to make sure I knew that every object in the Australia-based artist’s show was not what it appeared to be. The heads-up was judicious; even a close inspection of these grungy arrangements might not reveal that, with one or two exceptions, their components are cast from polyurethane resin. Aligning the quasimagical instantaneity of the casting process with the mythical emergence of beauty depicted in Botticelli’s titular canvas, Armanious attempts to discover a comparable pulchritude in present-day flotsam and jetsam. His primary tool in eliciting this inner light is an extraordinary verisimilitude that throws the entire enterprise of object-making into question by confusing origins with ends.

Party Pooper is typical, a lopsided three-legged table supporting the avatars of an old ashtray, a large seashell and other humble totems. Effigy of an Effigy with Mirage features a large, Picasso-esque bust, sitting next to a table drilled with holes, the top of which has something resembling a crystal vase taped into place.
Only a quartet of “Sneeze Paintings” breaks the mold. Though also made in part from resin, they’re not casts but rather the results of a more “active” process, in which the transparent material is frozen in splashlike forms that trace the explosive force of human reflex. Armanious’s choices might sound arbitrary, but his combination of impeccable technique and sensitive arrangement amplifies an effectively counterintuitive poetry.

Image: Hany Armanious, Effigy of an Effigy with Mirage, 2010