211 East 121st Street, Harlem
Through Oct. 29
Rosemarie Castoro, who died at 76 in 2015, had a prodigious career that rounded all the bases of art in 1960s and ’70s SoHo. She collaborated with the experimental dancer Yvonne Rainer; used silver tape to “split” galleries and sidewalks à la Gordon Matta-Clark; made hard-edge abstract paintings that drew raves from Frank Stella among others; and took inventory of the world around her in mathematical line drawings that parallel those by Sol LeWitt. For the first solo exhibition in its new Harlem space, the gallery Broadway 1602 has put together a stimulating sampler of Ms. Castoro’s diffuse output.
You enter the show through “Foyer” (1971), a big architectural installation of Masonite panels gessoed and streaked with graphite to accentuate the sweeping brush strokes. These materials reappear in wall sculptures from 1972 that offer similarly sly exaggerations of gestural painting. But before you get there, you’re confronted with an energetic defense of a different kind of painting, the hard-edge variety, in Ms. Castoro’s “Y” series from 1964-65. (Each one features a single letterform, repeated to create a pulsating visual field, and a color scheme that mixes brights and pastels to hallucinogenic effect.)
Then you come to the mysterious “inventory” drawings of 1968: little diaries of her daily rituals and encounters, with people and objects transformed into graphite lines via a code that remains obscure to us. (The critic and historian Lucy Lippard called this systematic series “the best ‘fiction’ I have read about the life of an artist.”) Here, too, are performance-documenting photographs that show Ms. Castoro wrestling with a large roll of aluminum sheet metalin the middle of a downtown Manhattan street; the piece, from 1969, was “Gates of Troy” and it evoked Achilles dragging the body of Hector. These works tell us a lot about how Ms. Castoro thought and her generous understanding of Minimal and Conceptual art’s rules and systems, which for her were of a piece with life and literature.
Text by KAREN ROSENBERG