What does Kathryn Andrews’s art look like? That question might be best answered as a string of algorithmic values: clowns, birthday, chrome, shiny. These attributes reappear throughout the 42-year-old Los Angeles artist’s career, though they are deployed in a disorienting, heterogeneous fashion. The buffed glint of chrome-plated steel or a cylin-drical plinth might be a hint that the sculpture before you is an Andrews. Does it contain an image of a man with a red nose and lurid face paint, or other circus-related paraphernalia? Then it’s also possibly Andrews. There’s no telling what will go into her next sculpture, and while that may sound like par for the course for a contemporary artist, in her case, this unpredictability is a symptom of a deliberate, semantic self-consciousness. “I decided early on that I wanted to problematize how the artist and the artist’s name is the only fixed signifier in relation to the artist’s output,” she says. “If you take the author away from the work, how do you make sense of the work?” Not easily.
An abiding sense of order permeates Andrews’s Highland Park studio. As many of her sculptures are fabricated elsewhere, her workspace resembles an e-commerce setup, lined with computers, color-coded in-boxes, and crates. One telling autobiographical detail is that the native Alabamian arrived in L.A. 16 years ago to study at ArtCenter and worked for years as an accountant in the studio of her teacher, the late Mike Kelley. This propensity for the forensic nature of details and data might explain something about the artist’s drive to make things that are highly compositional yet uncannily inscrutable. Two such sculptures are on deck to be unveiled this month on the High Line in New York. As a first for the artist, the works will feature interactive, kinetic components. A large aluminum box will be laid on its side under the Standard Hotel, where a slowly turning fan will be inset in an image of a melting ice-cream cone. The second piece, five blocks north, is a similar, upright box that reads “BEYOND THIS POINT YOU MAY ENCOUNTER NUDE BATHERS,” fitted with nozzles that douse passersby with mist. Sited on this park—thoroughfare hybrid, the sculptures themselves straddle their functions as cerebral puzzles and cooling agents that remind busily relaxing New Yorkers of their own bodies.