The art duo Antoniadis and Stone first attracted local attention in 2006, when they pissed off the powers that be at UMass Boston with an exhibit that temporarily demolished part of the school's Harbor Gallery. (The installation process, they admitted, "included some cutting up of existing walls.") But in the group show "Salt of the Earth" at Montserrat College of Art last summer, Alexi Antoniadis of Newtonville and Nico Stone of Chelsea wowed viewers with their sculptural riffs on bleak urban architecture and trash — a bent subway pillar, a cigarette stuck into a poopy-looking ball atop a concrete-and-gravel block. These sculptures were powerfully physical objects, a bit surreal, and seemingly vandalized with graffiti and old gum, to evoke the most soul-crushing elements of our city surroundings.
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If you've been to a Whitney Biennial lately, you know that Antoniadis and Stone's work is better than most of that stuff. It's time for them to put together a knockout solo show. Perhaps in the ICA lobby, with its expansive view of the Boston skyline and the museum's parking lot.
In "Boston Related," a 12-artist round-up of (mostly) local talent that the pair have organized at Fourth Wall Project (full disclosure: I'll be in a group show there in October), their work continues to channel the bleakness and absurdity of the cheerless concrete, institutional tile, and trash of our urban spaces. That gives their sculptures an emotional heft, but the work also does what the best of Minimalist sculpture is supposed to do: it focuses our attention on the mass and volume of things around us.
In Untitled (blocks), a stained pink slab of stone seems to balance on end atop a ball of silver foil atop a cracked, graffiti'd block of gray concrete. Only, the ball isn't positioned anywhere near the center, as you'd expect — it's off to one side. You wonder why the slab doesn't topple over. In fact, this sense of weight and potential energy is an illusion. Antoniadis and Stone constructed the parts from particleboard, paint, plaster, salt, dirt, enamel, and silicone. It's all held up by artful stagecraft.
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Untitled (sole and foil) appears to be a worn rubber sole from a sneaker propped up against a crinkled sheet of tinfoil. It's actually made of plastic, plaster, and enamel carefully constructed to look like some funny bit of junk you might find in a vacant lot. Untitled (tile wedge)
is a maybe six-foot-tall wedge covered with scuffed, scratched, cracked green tile. The whole thing balances precariously on a yellow foam ball — and now that you're familiar with Antoniadis and Stone's sleight of hand, you understand why the ball isn't being crushed. Then there's that sickly shade of green, institutional-style tile. It's like a monument to American-strip-mall architecture. Experiencing it is an edifying sort of pain.
A nihilistic undertone hums through the entire Fourth Wall. Maybe it's the signature style of the no-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel 2000s — a decade of terrorism and Hurricane Katrina and failed wars and the BP oil spill and economic collapse.