Taking a small bite out of a larger sculptural practice, “Tony Feher 1986–1994” is a precious reminder of the late artist’s skill to turn the seemingly prosaic into the spontaneously poetic. Spanning eight years of Feher’s life, before and after his HIV-diagnosis, the fifteen works presented here demonstrate Feher’s distinct awareness of time (he died in 2016) and his close attention to form.
Several of the pieces in this presentation have never been exhibited before, offering us the gift of a first encounter. While Feher has recently received long overdue recognition for his drawings (a book of these works was published in 2022 by Gregory R. Miller & Co.), the artist is best known for his creative arrangements of mundane objects into shrine-like configurations. In Feher’s hands, the cheap becomes cherished; the banal, beautiful; and the junky, utterly jewellike. While often mentioned in relation to the art of Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Gabriel Orozco, Feher’s output is equally in dialogue with that of Yuji Agematsu and Candy Jernigan—artists who disguised themselves as city archaeologists scouring the streets in search of treasures.
His signature use of glass jars and marbles is well represented in this intimately sized show, as we see in two Untitled works made between 1991 and 1993. Elsewhere, the marbles are either resting on a sheet of aluminum foil or have been suspended from the ceiling inside a mesh bag. The materials’ reflective surfaces catch the sun coming in from the gallery’s two large windows overlooking New York City, resulting in various studies of light—a primary interest of Feher’s. One glass jar has been emptied out onto a pedestal, revealing thirty-seven items arranged into a square-shaped group (Untitled, 1992–93). The cardboard box is another recurring motif, making an appearance in four of the featured works. These sculptures speak to Feher’s concern with objects that function as containers, to be filled and emptied out. While they can be read as vessels holding the massive losses brought about by the AIDS crisis, being filled and emptied out also echoes the process of breathing, and thereby the body itself.