FOR Agnes Denes, the Hungarian-born artist, now 88, is finally getting the respect she deserves.

HER focus on ecology, on the fear of present decay and the hope for future survival is clear from the start in sequential shots of 1968 solo performance, ''RICE/TREE/BURIAL,'' done in upstate New York -

In which she planted grains of rice, bound trees with chains and buried time-capsules of her own poems.

Yet most of her work, early and late, is the form of meticulously executed diagrammatic drawings based on the scientific and philosophical subjects : the workings of the brain, the complexities of language, the possibilities of post-Anthropocene habitation - in short, the fundamentals of what she is not afraid to refer to as ''human existence''.

In certain word-intensive pieces, like ''Manifesto'' [1969], which appears large on a wall outside the show, a tendency to abstract loftiness is tempered by plain-style language,  with results that read like concrete poetry.

Other, more purely graphic drawings have the flawless crispiness of digital prints. [Ms. Denes was a pioneer in applying computer technology to art, and in the 1970s was already forecasting the fate of  knowledge-as-truth in a coming age of information overload.]

Religion and ethics enter the picture in a work in a relief called ''Morse Code Message'' [1969-75]  Made from bits of white plastic attached to a dark plexiglass ground, it translated biblical passages in which God lays down the the law for mankind into a language universal - of dashes and dots.

And there's humour. An avowed feminist and one of the founders, in 1972, of the all-women A.I.R. Gallery [then in New York's SoHo district, now in Brooklyn], Ms. Danes takes satirical jabs at the workings of gender in an elaborate 1970 drawing ''Liberated Sex Machine.''

All of this probably qualifies in some sense as Conceptual Art. which would make Ms. Denes, a rare participant in a mostly male category.

Yet her work has a speculative-breadth and most important, an attention to visual presence that much classic Conceptual work does not. She has basically carved an independent, label free niche, and has been occupying and expanding it over 50 years.

Visionary is one label that does apply, though the art world has never been sure whether to trust it. Over the years, as she has taken on an increasingly elaborate ecological projects, her drawings. which she calls a form of ''visual philosophy'' - have grown more ambitious.

They include distorted world maps, in which the geopolitical relations were familiar with are unfixed. There are designs for cities that are also space stations, vehicles for exploration but also for escape.

Many of the designs are based on the ancient energy-channeling form of the pyramid, but the pyramid is now relieved of weight and monumental function. Ordinarily rigid and vertically directed, in Ms. Denes's drawings it stretches and twists, sells like an egg, curls like a snail, flies like a bird.

Everything in the world, as this artists sees it, is flux, subject to growth and decay, a dynamic that is dramatically embodied in her public projects.

The World Students Society thanks Art Review author, Holland Cotter.


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