Almost every day for the last four months we have watched cracker-accented NASA officials wringing their hands over the safety of the Russian MIR space station. There seems to be something hopelessly wrongheaded about it. On TV news, MIR looks jerry-built, like three gilded windmills making the two-backed-beast high above Earth. How could something so ramshackle work the way its supposed to? This is the same question that comes to mind when I encounter the sculpture of Peter Boynton.
Boynton's sculpture usually begins in the guise of domestic modernism -- notably, the furniture of Herman Miller and Charles Eames. Boynton's 1997 "Modernist Series," recently on view at Susan Inglett, had that kind of populuxe comfort. The show also included some drawings and one outstanding painting titled Meanwhile . . . in which a green glowing halo was littered like an asteroid belt with tiny, multi-colored knobs and blobs. This kind of celestial structure was echoed again in a hunched over sculpture titled Drawing Air, where glass beads were suspended in a carriage of woven wire, as if to render our particulant-filled atmosphere with jewels.
The repetition and arrangement of the individual particles in these works, and their submission in the construction of the whole image, demonstrates Boynton's interest in the patterned cosmology of Eastern art. Another group of sculpture, his "Box Series," is meant to be displayed retail-style, with the contents of the box placed as freestanding objects above the frame. Box Series (yellow-green) has a fungal, terraced look that's reminiscent of the exotic architecture found in Dr. Seuss' I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew.
All of the work in this show is assembled in a lively hands-on manner. This kind of sculpture is a relief from the inundation of cast and anonymously fabricated objects that have occupied most of the galleries lately. If Boynton's work appears unstable like the MIR, improvised and ungainly, this is exactly the quality that makes it so interesting. It's impossible to look at these objects and not appreciate the mental and physical dexterity of an artist who works with everything from latex balloons to Fluffernutter.
Peter Boynton at Susan Inglett, 100 Wooster Street, New York, N.Y. 10012.