"DO YOU PUT CHICKENS IN IT?" a boy aged no more than four asks, looking up at Midori Hirose with a Cindy Lou Who innocence. "You could," replies Hirose, referring to one of her sculptures positioned on the floor of Little Field: lengths of wood create the outline of a black cube, which is bordered at its base with layers and globs of spray foam.
"You could squeeze a lemon into it," the little boy adds. Everyone in the gallery melts into smiles. Of course, Hirose isn't thinking about chickens or lemons. As with all the pieces in the show, the artist says she's representing order (the sleek lines of the cube) and chaos (the messy spray foam)—ideas she began to explore while reading Friedrich Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy. One of Nietzsche's assertions is that art gets closest to reflecting the human condition when it involves cycles of both Dionysian and Apollonian forms. As an example, he cites the Greek tragedy—where moments of chaos are tempered by ordered stretches of dialogue, which eventually produce further chaos.
There's a strong connection to Nietzsche's ideas in Hirose's materials, which she describes in an email: "I enjoyed the idea of how wood comes from a natural (chaos) state while the foam is manmade (order). And yet when making the work, the results were the opposite. The wood became the order and foam became the chaos." The expected values end up producing their opposites—order from chaos, and vice versa.
But even with strong conceptual footing, I can't help but think back to our budding art critic and the validity of his reaction to Hirose's work. As adorable as his questions and observations are, they indicate a real risk taken with nonrepresentational bodies of sculpture: In siding with abstraction, the objects can miss clear connections to the world at large. Children are unashamed to invent these connections; adults can be pushed away by the guesswork. (To be fair, this isn't a risk Hirose takes alone—David Corbett immediately comes to mind from the throngs of locals who experiment with nonrepresentational sculpture.)
Ultimately, risks and all, Hirose's show achieves its goals. She set her sights on order and chaos, on the give-take relationship between these, rendering the dichotomy with little embellishment. Nietzsche would be proud.