By: Bonnie Barrett Stretch

MASS MoCA • North Adams, MA • • Through February 4, 2013

Sopheap Pich, Compound, 2011
Sopheap Pich, Compound, 2011

Inspired by Italo Calvino’s classic book Invisible Cities, MASS MoCA curator Susan Cross has brought together ten leading artists from around the globe to ponder the surreal, increasingly urbanized world in which we live. Three powerful works form the exhibition’s core.

Miha Strukelj’s Melting Pot—a dramatic two-story-high charcoal and graphite wall drawing—conjures memories of recurring chaos and resilience, not only in his home country of Slovenia, but in any city. Layering pixilated images from cities around the world, Strukelj creates a ghostly scene of towering cranes, shifting buildings, and uncertain identity, while overhead, string extends into the room like telephone cables, and wooden platforms attached to the wall pull the viewer into the frame, connecting imagination to reality.

At the gallery’s other end, Nolli’s Orders, a new monumental sculpture by Syrian-American artist Diana Al-Hadid, rises like a mountainous landscape, beautiful in its flow of porcelain-like forms derived from Northern Renaissance paintings and Venetian architecture, and terrifying in its sense of melting, death, and collapse.

Between these works stand the tall, serene forms of Compound, Cambodian artist Sopheap Pich’s variation on his acclaimed work at the 2011 Singapore Biennale. Con-structed from bamboo and rattan, its pointed towers evoke the country’s rich culture and the bombs of its violent past, while exquisitely crafted rectangular units suggest both city-scapes and cages.

At the room’s far end, Francesco Simeti’s site-specific wallpaper, La citta d’oro (City of Gold), covers a vast wall with repetitive images from wars in Afghanistan and Asia, nuclear power plants, and deteriorating US cities, weaving among them a cloud motif blending smoke from pollution and explosions, all decoratively melding together like the evening news.

Other works include Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa’s No Way Out, a rice-paper maquette of an illuminated city that is, in fact, a beautiful but entrapping maze; an untitled commission by North Adams artist Kim Faler; Emeka Ogboh’s Lagos Soundscape, and Liz Glynn’s Los Angeles documentaries linking myth and global capital. Futuristic hanging constructions by Seoul artist Lee Bul, paired with origami-like paintings by North Adams artist Mary Lum, create an elegant coda.

—Bonnie Barrett Stretch

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