By Stephanie Cash
Art in America
San Francisco-based female artists Charlie Castaneda and Brody Reiman have been collaborating on projects since 1988, when they met as undergraduates at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. They went on to obtain their M.F.A.s together at U.C.-Davis in 1994 and have continued to pick up steam since then. For their second solo show in New York, they re-created an installation that was seen earlier last year at San Francisco's Stephen Wirtz Gallery.
Using common construction materials such as drywall, plywood, insulation, carpet and cement, the duo creates simple, evocative works with Minimalist inflections, in this case a forest of plywood and mountains of concrete blocks. More tightly installed than in San Francisco, the works at DCKT became a cohesive unit instead of a group of related but separate sculptures. The small gallery was filled with dozens of miniature, roughly conical sculptures formed from stacked squares of plywood and drywall rotated around a central axis so that they resemble stylized pine trees. Ranging in height from a few inches to almost 5 feet, the trees were installed on cement blocks on the floor and on wooden shelves staggered around the perimeter of the gallery in tight, overlapping configurations like mountaintop perches.
Seven abstract canvases (ranging from about 5 inches to 3 feet in height) were hung about the room or tucked into the corners among the sculptures. With horizontal swaths of greens and umber on their lower portions and lightening shades of blue at the top, the paintings suggest landscapes. Adding to the outdoors effect, the gallery walls were subtly painted with bands of pale green and blue. Here and there, stripes of more saturated green and blue along the shelves' edges, on the cement blocks, or accenting the trees in random patterns jostled with the works' attempts at simulating nature.
Cleverly, the artists have fashioned likenesses of the sources of their chosen materials, perhaps unwittingly sending a discreet environmental message: as humans try to build a better world, we destroy the natural one in the process. Yet castaneda/reiman's works aren't didactic or preachy; they even have a touch of lightheartedness.