Veronica Santi on June Crespo

June Crespo’s sculpture explores the subtle, contradictory, and vulnerable relationships between the human and the inanimate. In her recent exhibition “Acts of Pulse,” Crespo continued to hone her visionary formal and symbolic analogies between the body and objects. For example, three works in her 2022 “Óptico” (Optical) series employ fragments of casts of toilet bowls—to evoke the ocular bone cavity and the relationship between an eye and an eyelid, yet without mimetic literalism—maintaining an open dialogue with the material. Parts of the sculptures have been left with rough surfaces, while other aspects, such as casting plugs, point to the process of their fabrication. This mysterious archaeology of the future melded with nostalgia for the moment of creation was enthralling.

Crespo’s casts don’t simply reproduce objects, but rather vary and transmute motifs into fragments of possibility. In No Osso (Occipital) (No Bones [Occipital]), 2021, the artist also used the cast of a toilet, doubling it this time to consider the articulation between the skull and the first spinal vertebra. The work resembles a prosthesis of the gallery wall as it combines rigid materials such as resin, clay, and Plasticine. The soft sleeping bag that enfolds the work and the climbing straps holding it firmly together lend it a reassuring quality. The interaction between feelings, materials, and architecture became even more compelling as the artist attempted to eroticize the walls in the suite of five pieces from 2022 that gave the show its title. By attaching bronze casts of a horse saddle to stainless steel tubes that extended from the walls, Crespo accentuated a likeness between its form and a tongue or, in some dual compositions, the arch of a palate. As such, the sequence of sculptures became an exploration of the mouth as a space of fluent movements from rigid to soft, or from full to empty.

While distinct from her practice to date, yet maintaining a similarly alienating effect here, Crespo drew out the emotional and anatomical undertones latent in the original objects by highlighting details such as seams, buckles, and the curve of the seat. Also new was her use of textiles in a kind of abstract/figurative polarity: She sometimes uses swatches of fabric or leather sewn and buttoned carefully together, letting them fall freely to the floor. In others, old clothes, such as her own jeans, or soft objects—for instance, a sleeping bag belonging to her father—are compressed and partially hidden by the sculptural forms, as if chewed up and manipulated by them. The blue and red fabrics that appeared throughout the show recall the human circulatory system’s veins and arteries, lending the show an organic vitality, a kind of systole/diastole pulse. This energy placed the wall sculptures in direct correspondence with the freestanding ones in the “Dividual” series, 2022: totemic chrysalides and support columns that simultaneously invert and combine container and content to foster visual dissonances and strange inversions of meaning.

Emphasizing neither the object nor materials, avoiding politics and rhetoric, Crespo’s art operates on the level of osmosis between the human and the inanimate. Beyond the objects of our daily life—from the islands of garbage that drift in the sea to engineered prosthetic limbs, from the synthetic food we will eat in the future to the microplastics that already inhabit our organs—Crespo taps into a reality we have yet to fully recognize.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

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