Mary Mattingly: House and Universe reviewed in ArtNews

Mary Mattingly's personal belongings, lashed together with rope, imagine the fate of society in the wake of environmental destruction. This show, "House and Universe," included two such aggregations: Gyre (2013), a hemisphere of the artist's cast-offs bound to a wagon wheel, and Terrene (2012), which hung from the ceiling like a wrecking ball. The strength of these masses intensified the mood of the 15 photographs situating Mattingly's sculptures in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. In Microsphere (2012), three women nestle inside a geodesic cocoon watching children swim in murky water near houseboats. Packing materials labeled "COSCO" (China's international shipping company" dominate the skyline.

In Life of Objects (2013), a ball of detritus rests on top of a naked, fair-skinned boy who bears the weight of human possessions. Other works seemed straightforwardly documentary. Flock (2012) captures one of several floating domiciles designed and inhabited by the artist from 2011 to 2012. Mattingly takes photographs all over the world, but refuses to divulge their locations, adding to our overall sense of disorientation. Alongside Andrea Zittel, Mel Chin, and other utilitarian art activists, she participates in an expanding forum that proposes alternative solutions for living in a society transformed by floods, was, and economic collapse. A Ruin in Reverse (2013), a sarcophagus-shaped bundle tossed into a freshly dug grave, recalls Ana Mendieta's Silvetas.

The poignancy of Mattingly's environments is their vulnerability. They are imperfect solutions that question humanity's chances for survival in a post-consumer age. Gathering together her own belongings, she asks, "Why did I own them? How did they get into my life? And what's my responsibility?" The success of Mattingly's work rests, perhaps, on whether it actually moves us to action.

—Johanna Ruth Epstein