Danh Võ, a Vietnamese Berliner, has crafted a full-size facsimile of the skin of the Statue of Liberty, hand-hammered from the same copper as the original then presented in bits in the space that’s available. It is one of the best works in the second New Museum triennial, which this time out has been titled “The Ungovernables.” What I like about the triennial is that it doesn’t pretend to be much more than an accumulation of the best emerging art the curators could find, in the time and with the resources at their disposal. It makes few grand claims to pulse-taking or agenda-setting.
Võ’s piece strikes a lovely balance between conventional 3D abstraction (shades of Anthony Caro) and the politically tinged installation art that was abstraction’s successor. Like a lot of the art in the triennial, it yields some modest but useful confusion: The tame sculpture that you think you’re getting, when you get your first look, turns out to be Lady Liberty torn up and in some kind of trouble. Or is Võ’s gesture entirely optimistic and respectful? Imitation is sincerest flattery, after all, and Võ may just be waiting for the chance to assemble a twin-sister monument to freedom.
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