I must admit that I had a good laugh when I passed this very familiar-looking sculpture while walking on the High Line recently. Maybe you have a similar dental Retainer (albeit on a much smaller scale) in your medicine cabinet right now. I know I do.
Hannah Levy’s largely anthropomorphic sculptures evoke the feeling of interacting with the built environment: lounging on chairs, leaning in doorways, grasping a railing. She selects precise animal, vegetable and design forms to elicit these sensations and contrasts cold materials such as steel and aluminum with organic forms rendered in silicone, often suggesting human flesh. The friction of physically interacting with our surroundings, which in turn sparks an awareness of our own materiality, is of primary importance to the artist.
For the High Line, Levy makes an oversized orthodontic Retainer (2021) from sculpted marble and stainless steel. The piece points to the strangeness of orthodontics and comments on straight teeth as a marker of class, in part because of orthodontics’ exorbitant price.
The organic form of the cast mouth contrasts with its smooth metal bars, conjuring the bizarre feeling of the rigid form inside one’s mouth inviting outside standards and structures inside one’s own body.
The scale of Levy’s giant retainer makes it almost as tall as the park benches nearby; and the retainer wire is the same size as the High Line’s railings, setting it in conversation with the architecture and design of the park and its surroundings.
Retainer (2021) By Hannah Levy Will Be on View on The Highline at 23rd Street Through March 2022.