In his first New York exhibition in two years, ROBERT LONGO's October 8 - November 5 show at METRO PICTURES includes seven large wall sculptures that depart from the prior work by their increased degree of abstraction. Devoid of explicit pictorial elements, the pieces combine closely related rather than the once disparate parts, to pursue Longo's uniquely American confrontation of cultural and social themes. The pieces stand as metaphors for Longo's ongoing concern with the dominance of the institutional, industrial presence on our physical and psychological environment. His focus on manmade spectacle, authoritarian terror and urban tension is significantly contained and concentrated into equipollent symbols rather than graphic depictions.
These conflicts of the modern world are represented by coordination of scale, surface, material, color, form and movement. For example, Dumb Running (The Theory of the Brake) comprises a grid of 10 gold leafed drums that turn at a rapid, blurring pace and stop at sudden intervals. The gold represents value and beauty, the mechanized spinning a loss of visible control and the braking a demonstration of command. A quieter work, A House Divided (Re-enactor), with reference to the romanticized, annual reenactments of the American Civil War as poetic performance, has two navy blue wool covered panels punctured by a lead slug. Black Planet is a seven foot wide inverted black steel dish from which black rubber tubing cascades to the floor. Similarly, The Fire Next Time, titled from a James Baldwin book, is a long rectangle of aluminum and graphite cut by a V-shape of ragged shards of red plexiglas. Nostromo, from the title of a Joseph Conrad story, is a grand scale landscape-like construct of strata of wax, lead, wool felt, wood and brick that is surmounted by a copper architectural form.
Longo's one-person show of sculpture and studies has just closed at the Menil Collection in Houston, while a retrospective exhibition is being organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to open in September 1989 and travel to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. Longo's first major exhibition in Europe is being separately organized by the Kunsthalle, Basel, Switzerland and will subsequently travel to other venues. Also, in October, a one-person installation titled Objects, Ghosts and Love Collectors will open at the Boymans-van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam. At the same time a theatrical collaboration, Solid Ashes, with music by Phillip Glass and others will be performed at the New Rotterdam Theatre. Longo's recent performance Killing Angels premiered last season in Buffalo and will be seen at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and at Royce Hall, Los Angeles. Longo's film Arena Brains screened last year at the New York Film Festival and has just been released on video cassette by Elektra Entertainment, and Longo, as an occasional music video director, was nominated as best director for R.E.M.'s The One I Love.