Sarah Sze at Crypta Balbi

21 November 2018 – 27 January 2019

Crypta Balbi, Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome


Gagosian and Museo Nazionale Romano (directed by Daniela Porro) are pleased to present Sarah Sze’s sculpture Split Stone (7:34) (2018) at the historic Crypta Balbi museum, concurrent with her exhibition at Gagosian.

In the exhibition, Sze juxtaposes paintings with a video installation to underscore and amplify the materiality of digital images, revealing that each picture—whether printed, projected, or painted—is made up of particles of ink and light, which migrate from screen to canvas to architecture and back again. In Split Stone (7:34), she takes the reverse approach by embedding a digital image of a sunset in a granite boulder, while noting in the work’s title the exact time at which she captured the fleeting moment on her iPhone.

Opened like a natural geode, Split Stone (7:34) appears amid the poetically charged ruins of the Crypta Balbi. An evening sky appears embedded in its cut surface, alluding to the timelessness of gongshi (scholar’s rocks) and the heavenly firmaments of Renaissance paintings. To apply the sunset images to the stone, thousands of tiny cavities inscribed into the smooth granite are filled with colored pigment, thus translating the techniques of lithography and dot-matrix printing into detailed handwork.

Split Stone (7:34) is the first in a series of outdoor stone sculptures in which Sze treats landscape as medium, image, and site. Resonating with the archeological layers of Rome since antiquity that are present and visible in the Crypta Balbi, Split Stone (7:34) suggests a sublime aura contained within the solid rock. Just as images are composed of paint smears, ink dots, or illuminated pixels, ruins consist of fragments of rock, brick, and mortar that slowly crumble away, leaving only the suggestion of a former structure. Thus, by imbuing an image as banal as a sunset with a sense of gravity and physical time, Sze conflates the pathos of the ruin with the frenetic image culture of today.

Sze’s exhibition remains on view through January 12, 2019, at Gagosian, Via Francesco Crispi 16.

Rendering of Sarah Sze, Split Stone (7:34), 2018, granite, stainless steel, resin, and pigments, in 2 parts, left: 36 1/4 × 44 1/4 × 31 3/8 inches (92.1 × 112.4 × 79.7 cm), right: 37 3/4 × 49 1/4 × 27 3/8 inches (95.9 × 125.1 × 69.5 cm)

Sarah Sze was born in Boston in 1969, and lives and works in New York. Collections include the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris. Recent institutional exhibitions include Triple Point, United States Pavilion, 55th Biennale di Venezia (2013, traveled to Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, in 2014); All the World’s Futures, 56th Biennale di Venezia (2015); Timekeeper, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA (2016, traveled to Copenhagen Contemporary, Denmark, in 2017); and Centrifuge, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2017).

From November 16, the recently acquired installation Seamless (1999) will be on view at Tate Modern, London.

Crypta Balbi is one of four locations that constitute the Museo Nazionale Romano. Discovered during a major archeological excavation begun in 1981, the site shows the transformation of a historic city precinct from antiquity to the present—including traces of the Theatre of Balbus (built in 13 BCE, during the Age of Augustus) and various structures from the Middle Ages, all alongside the church of Santa Caterina dei Funari, which was erected in 1564. The museum incorporates the underground Roman remains, including the exedra of Crypta Balbi, which was the entrance to the eponymous theater. It is divided into two different sections: the first presents the history of the urban landscape in the Crypta Balbi area and the results of the excavations; the second focuses on the reconstruction of Rome in the Early Middle Ages, from the fifth century, when the ancient city began to disappear, to the tenth century, when the medieval city took its place.

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