HUMA BHABHA BY ROBERTA SMITH
Huma Bhabha has a trippy watercolor in the engaging "Exquisite Corpse" exhibition at the Mitchell Algus Gallery, but its resemblance to the work of Wangechi Mutu is a minus. Ms. Bhabha is much more distinctive in sculpture, as proven by her third solo show at ATM. The three works here move effortlessly between architecture and figurative forms, ancient and modern. Their materials are cheap and practical â€” mostly air-dried clay, found wood laths and pale blue plastic foam â€” but always subtly contrasted.
An untitled work evokes a blind, desiccated sphinx while summoning modernism and its trash. Its blazing white freeform face (enamel on air-dried clay) could be International Gehry; its snakelike body is a rusted exhaust pipe. "Museum Without Walls" might be an architectural model of a colossal clay head retrofitted with glass-walled galleries. In both these pieces, blue foam functions as filler, like the rubble of previous monuments inside surviving ones. "Sleeper" is a Frankensteinian idol of approximately life size, made from wood and clay, whose hollow chest cavity may be a dwelling.
Given their apparent funkiness, it may seem odd to call Ms. Bhabha's sculptures perfect, but with their restraint, careful shifts in scale and clarity of structure, they come close. And ATM's tiny space, not much larger than a tomb or a pyramid's passage way, is the perfect setting.
HUMA BHABHA BY HOLLAND COTTER
An intriguing presence in group shows for several years, Huma Bhabha makes her New York solo debut here with three sculptures and a photograph. "Waiting for a Friend" in the front gallery is a composite figure. The bottom section, of wax and plaster over wire, suggests the swelling thighs and tapering legs of a paleolithic goddess. From it rises a vertical wooden beam, like an unyielding spine, surmounted by a head. Bloody-looking little lumps resembling internal organs appear where spine and thighs meet, adding a touch of visceral mystery to what might otherwise be a mind-versus-body abstraction.
A second figure in the back gallery is made up of two detached, club-shaped legs. Cartoonish in a Philip Guston way and standing on a small Oriental rug, they lean together as if locked in a kiss. The piece, titled "Magic Carpet," touches gently on the artist's Pakistani origins, but it attests to her thorough immersion in the self-conscious abjection of contemporary Western art.
The title of the third sculpture, "International Monument," sets up a riff on Tatlin's heaven-pointing tower commemorating the Russian Revolution, though Ms. Bhabha's utopian emblem takes the more inviting form of a big open hand made of ordinary white plastic foam and dark-brown putty, with an animal bone for a base.
The show's single photograph is of a sculpture-in-progress that Ms. Bhabha never completed. In the picture, it looks a bit like a Giacometti coming to life on an operating table, but not like any recent art I can think of. The same is true of Ms. Bhabha's work as a whole, which is one of the reasons I like it.