Since the early 1990s American artist Rachel Harrison has been developing a brand of unwieldy, unyielding sculpture, sometimes abject and sometimes abrasive in its refusal to give up meaning. Objects from the catch-all drawer -- a clown nose, a syringe, a framed photograph, a houseplant -- are deposited on built agglomerations of polystyrene and cement, giving individual works the pugnacious air of a bad joke, sometimes emphasized by a title (like 2006's Nice Rack). A dolly or stool or table or ladder, thickly encrusted or as good as new, lends most works a strong sense of autonomy, but never resolution.
Using elements fundamental to sculpture -- the way an object requires us to walk around it, the way we try to make sense out of two different things juxtaposed -- her works lead us towards one understanding and then makes us question it as we turn the corner. They leave you with your interpretive tools blunted, even as they hint at portraiture. Sometimes Harrison picks up a camera. In 2000, she took a series of photos of a window in Perth Amboy, NJ, where a vision of the Virgin Mary had appeared in the glass. Pilgrims tended to press a hand against the pane, as if the sense of touch were better equipped to pick up a trace of the event. These photographs, unexpectedly representing unfiltered human desire, were part of a maze-like installation of corrugated cardboard with objects.