The Force of Absence

Debra Baxter's sculptures explore the meanings of missing.

The neck, anatomically speaking, is the part of the body that connects or distinguishes the head from the torso. It may be simplistic, but if one compartmentalizes, thought occurs in the head and feeling occurs somewhere else in the body. Debra Baxter points to the region that serves as a conduit or link between the two.

“What to Do With the Missing?” consists of an enlarged head-like form, heavy and gray, teetering on the edge of an isolated alabaster carved neck. The title points to the difficulty of sorting out the implications of absence. “Missing” is an interpretation of phenomena that can occupy someone both physically and mentally, perhaps at the same time. When missing someone, somewhere, or something, what you feel and what you think may be amplified and the relationship between the two is up for grabs.

DEBRA BAXTER

Massimo Audiello

526 W. 26th St., no. 519

Tue.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Through Mar. 1

212-675-9082

Isolating the neck from its upper and lower part (no hierarchy intended) brings attention to the site where voice, consumption, and breath pass. Baxter's necks are strange and solid stumps throughout the gallery, sometimes acting as stands, other times appearing alone.

Silence manifests itself as two tongues, and exists extracted from its context, displayed at the back of the gallery. The bronze tongue is far from passive – it is a ring that lies over the knuckles. Excuse this literal interpretation, but if one could hit with their tongue, this is what it would look like.

As a transparent object of aggression, “Love Tap” hangs by a chain from the ceiling, and confronts viewers at eye level, putting them face to face with a punching bag of blown glass. Its presence asserts itself, while remaining breakable at the same time. Another bag, carved from alabaster, acts as an anchor for a floating yellow balloon, also at eye level.

Baxter's use of the body and breath is the most unexpected in “Knot.” An air balloon's tie is delicately carved into the small tapered tip of a cypress knee, a root projection found in swamps, emerging above the standing water level, as if to come up for oxygen.

The title page of a book has been altered and photographed. The “You” is crossed out, and reads “Millions of Women are Waiting to Meet You.” The originally intended man/you is left out of the picture, and the meaning is left for the viewer to decide. Millions of women waiting to meet sounds like a good idea to me.

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