What is it about ancient statuary that inspires breathless adoration, even occasional palpitations and fainting spells? Italian physicians are familiar with a phenomenon called Stendhal Syndrome, named for the 19th-century French writer who suffered an extreme response to works of art on his visit to Florence. Even today, tourists succumb, regularly hitting the floor before Michelangelo’s David and on visits to the masterpiece-laden Borghese Gallery.
For Crush, his fifth solo exhibition with The Hole, Adam Parker Smith (b. 1978, Arcata, CA) poses this question in the form of six monumental new works, taking a drastic departure from his typical material and scale. Smith – working with a team of master carvers, a seven-axis reductive robot, and the digital research teams at museums like the Uffizi – has rendered some of the most recognizable Roman and Hellenic sculpture in 3D modeling programs before compressing each of them into a compact unit. Using those digital schematics, the figures were then painstakingly chiseled out of Carrara marble blocks.
The works, which stand or rest at one cubic meter each, give the impression that the canon of classical statuary has been put through an industrial compactor. Such machined units imply shipping, stocking, stacking; like the square watermelons in Japan they are functional, disturbing. This ancient stone, from the same mountain owned by the same family as in Michaelangelo’s time, makes the sculptures faithful to their historical antecedents, but in this new form Smith interrupts our inclination to exalt in their presence, helping us to see these icons of mythology in a profoundly new way.