Between Spaces by John Beeson

New York Live Arts presents

Marjani Forte
Nov 15-19

Heather Rowe, “Green Desert.” Photo by Matthew Septimus, Courtesy P.S.1.

Acting as a signpost for a new exhibition at PS1, Green Desert by Heather Rowe sensitizes visitors to visual textures, literal referents, and artistic nuance, keys to experiencing much of the work that has been brought together. Between Spaces, a rare exhibition organized by the junior curatorial staff—namely Tim Goossens and Kate McNamara—begs viewers to pay close attention to moments of transition and liminality, which are not limited to physical space. In eight thoughtfully arranged galleries, the curators present recent work by eleven relatively young artists. Among so much sculpture and installation there are many resonances—such as a predominance of strong formal geometry, attention to the power or preciousness of materials, the careful manipulation of light and space, and a sympathy for forms and ideas that can be conferred carefully, cleanly, though with no loss of poetry or energy.

Zak Kitnick’s works in the series The People Behind Our Products cause a fantastic perceptual and symbolic effect, whereby screens of faux-precious metals obscure the details of found objects—paper products, cloth, crumpled paper—set back in shallow boxes. Visually, the space of these boxes and the volume of their contents collapse on the screens, causing these everyday objects to stand as naturalized icons. Kitnick’s Carl Andre-inspired arrangement of vinyl floor tiles calls out to the room with Alex Da Corte’s thin molds of dried soda. Created on-site specifically for the exhibition, Da Corte’s gelatin puddles suggest Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ masses of candy melted together into slightly irregular geometric shapes of saccharine color.

Perfect Square, a video piece by the artist Melanie Schiff, presents viewers with direct contradiction—neither the rectangular shape of the projected image nor the sinuous path that a swimmer is shown swimming are geometrically precise squares. What the video instead imparts are enough visual cues to understand the nature of the process first established in the artist’s mind and then carried out: blind to the cameraman deep below her, she attempted to swim along the path of a perfect square—an inevitably failed act.

In several instances, the works in this exhibition represent a re-engagement with old dialogues—on painting, art and life, and the persistent question of what can be considered art—but in new ways, using the old ways instead as indications of this grouping’s formal and conceptual sympathies. Given the variety between these works in terms of nature and concerns, it follows that light would shift definitively from gallery to gallery—ranging from artificial to natural, to spotlights in darkness, to ambient, provided by the work, to reflected and distorted light. Each gallery is a coherent lighted environment, and as such they are distinct; there is no space between galleries, only thresholds, instantaneous transitions. The rooms between works that resonate with each other are left to be those liminal zones, those spaces in between. And since these meaningful works support an intensely complex system of interrelations, the viewer is left in a state of never arriving, left wanting only to return.

Between Spaces is on view at PS1 through April 5th, 2010.

John Beeson, a critic and curator from New York City, is currently living in Germany. His interests include art of the ’70s, experimental printmaking, and contemporary art.

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