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"Conrad Shawcross: The Nervous System (Inverted)": Reviewed by the New York Times

Part sculptor, part inventor, the young British artist Conrad Shawcross has conjured a remarkable rope trick under the 50-foot-high glass ceiling of 590 Madison Avenue’s airy atrium. It takes some looking to get what is going on. First you notice a multicolored rope as thick as your arm hanging in the air. Looking upward, you see that the rope divides into three separate strands, which, in turn, each divide again into three thinner strands and so on. The last strands unspool from 162 bobbins attached to a complicated, motorized mechanism hung from the roof. Meanwhile, back on the ground, the thick rope passes under a pulley and extends sideways to a big wooden winch that slowly pulls it along as the contraption above weaves it. Rotating at an almost imperceptibly slow rate, the winch dumps the rope onto the floor, creating an ever-increasing heap. By the end of the show, about 1,700 feet will have been braided by the machine, which runs all day. After the exhibition is taken down, the rope will be cut into segments and sold in special wooden boxes. Like Roxy Paine’s high-tech, plastic blob-making machines, Mr. Shawcross’s construction is an artwork that manufactures art. So it is, in part, a play on Modernist self-reflexivity. It is also a piece about time and process, as well as about division and wholeness. Weaving, of course, is an ancient metaphor about duration and history. Though the work is not terrifically exciting formally, the ingenuity and metaphysical poetry of Mr. Shawcross’s construction makes you wonder what else he might have up his sleeve. KEN JOHNSON The Sculpture Garden at 590 Madison Avenue Through July 10
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