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Art review: Noah Sheldon at Cherry and Martin

November 27, 2009 | 12:25 pm

400.NS_Untitled_RAW Nature is cataloged, chronicled and contained in five large color photographs and a 12-minute video by Brooklyn artist Noah Sheldon. The show  is somewhat slight, but it’s subject is anything but.

At Cherry and Martin, one photograph shows a moist, semi-tropical glade, through which a man-made wooden path zigzags. Elsewhere a tangle of trees dangles carefully numbered tags. In a third picture, a dense cascade of vines, hanging like a curtain across the foreground plane, is interrupted by a white pole from which hangs a fragment of yellow caution tape: Do not enter.

More is revealed in a more immediately obvious photograph, which shows an artificial lake against a fake stone cliff beneath a canopy of open-framework metal and glass. In this and the other photographs we are inside Biosphere 2 in the Arizona desert, a controversial imitation of the natural world fabricated for scientific study in an era of catastrophic natural degradation and potential collapse.

That precariousness is evoked in a movable structure of thin wooden slats wired together at the ends and standing in the center of the room. Made in collaboration with Maggie Peng, an architect who is Sheldon’s wife, the sculpture is a rickety fragment of a geodesic form known for inherent tensile strength. (An associate of Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome, designed the Biosphere 2 container.) Where, the sculpture tacitly asks, is today’s Bucky Fuller, captain of an endangered Spaceship Earth?

The video shows a lovely sunset glimpsed across a lake — “On Golden Pond,” as it were — set to a soundtrack that is like a child’s faltering piano lesson. Cyclical beauty collides with immature human dissonance, in a performance that ends in inevitable darkness. Fading to black, entropic decline and degeneration are rarely given such a romantic and effective glow.

– Christopher Knight

Cherry and Martin, 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, (310) 559-0100, through Dec. 12. Closed Sun. and Mon.

Image: Untitled, 2009. Photo credit: Courtesy of Cherry and Martin.