Art Parties

Tishan Hsu, Carol Bove, and More Celebrate their Confounding Medium at SculptureCenter's Gala

Photography by Jenna Bascom. All images courtesy of SculptureCenter.

The SculptureCenter Gala was a home game. The industrial red brick proportions of the museum used to be Long Island City standard issue, but now the building looks like a kid in the wrong grade among soaring, and possibly empty, residential towers that hold value for someone. SculptureCenter remains on this block, because of how pronounced its value has been for the neighborhood and the greater New York community. Artists return year after year, decade after decade, to support its mission because they’ve seen the impact it's had on their own practices. It’s a congregation that grows. There is something intrinsically church-like about the space with its large open nave, usually the stage for the museum’s ceremonial solo shows. For yesterday evening’s festivities, the institution's first gala in years, the place was kitted out by gala whisperer Erica Sarlo with tropical clippings and LED-strip centerpieces that changed colors as the evening elapsed. As familiar faces like Rafael Domenech, Diane Severin NguyenKorakrit ArunanondchaiRindon Johnson and Rujeko Hockley retired from a drinks hour on the covered portico, the lights emitted a glowing green, sending a witchy flush over strangers and friends—an ice breaker for me and Rochelle Feinstein, a Long Island City artist of abstraction. She was also meeting someone new—Hadi Falapishi, whose wonderful show at Andrew Kreps has just recently come down. Looking around, it felt like the crowd was majority artists, with a few curators peppered in here and there. I didn’t want to question the details of such an idyll. 

The inimitable Carol Bove kicked off the night’s sermons. The artist read a list that reaffirmed everything she loved about sculpture, addressing its confounding persistence as a genre and thereby SculptureCenter’s own raison d’être. It was a kind of prayer with punchlines, a form Bove’s work is often wont to take: “Sculpture can take up a lot of space for no discernable reason. It can also be invisible. It is very expensive. Some can recreate a category. Others can be impossible to distinguish from a normal object. It can get lost in your mind without you knowing it and come out much later. It can be inscrutable and obvious at the same time. It can re-enchant everything. It can be something smarter than the person who made it. It can bring several traditions together even though they shouldn’t be together. It can be a painting.” Behind Bove, a new work by Tishan Hsu, the gala’s honoree, pulsed with the same prescient recognition we’ve come to expect from the pioneering artist who reoriented our relationship to screens. 

SculptureCenter Director Sohrab Mohebbi introduced Hsu, whose 2020 retrospective he helped stage. In his speech, Hsu evoked the disappointment of arriving at his show double masked before quickly evacuating the city for safety. He recalled Mohebbi and Deputy Director Kyle Dancewicz’s resilience in continuing to keep the show open and safe to the public in the face of a global catastrophe. Hsu spoke about all these things coming together to make this evening and this honor feel even more special and substantial for the artist. He thanked the three people he felt were responsible for his ascendance but also contributed to his resolve: Pat Hearn (the first gallerist to work with Hsu), Elaine King (who put him in a survey about the 1980s), and his late wife, who was instrumental in envisioning Hsu as an artist. He concluded by stating, “We are all interdependent.” The LEDs flickered with a warm white light before spiraling out into an ombre dance.