Preparator Magic

Working as a preparator, I’m halfway through a two-week install involving lots of building. It’s exciting and exhausting, requiring focus and grace. You work with materials, tools, people, institutions, vendors… elevator systems, security systems. You aim to please, perhaps even aspire to perfection, yet you have to manage expectations, including your own. Preparators are only midwives to artists’ visions, but pride—not to be discounted—is at stake. Behind the impression of timelessness that artworks and exhibitions strive for is a lot of risk/hopethatworks/noonewillknow. Dive in, fight fatigue, feel crumbly yet alive, playing a role in a complex that fuses creative ambition with material reality.

In my research about Jim Hodges this weekend, I came across examples of the paradoxes/great cosmic jokes that preparator work involves.

Jim Hodges, Untitled, 2011  Mirror ball, mechanics and water; dimensions variable. Source:

Jim Hodges, Untitled, 2011 Mirror ball, mechanics and water; dimensions variable. Source:

Jim Hodges oversees the deinstallation of Untitled at Gladstone Gallery. Source:

Jim Hodges oversees the deinstallation of Untitled at Gladstone Gallery. Source:

Different locations, same artist, same gallery.

First image: Jackhammered hole.

Second image: Concrete floor protected in gaffer-taped Masonite. Note pieces cut-to-size for break-away brace. Nifty.

In art and art exhibitions, the visible is often just the tip of the iceberg, while many more systems, materials, labor, and even experiences, are kept invisible.


Jim Hodges @ Gladstone, Andrea Bowers @ Kreps

I can’t bring myself to see the Carsten Höller show at the New Museum. It sounds like something I would love—
1. It’s called Experience.
2. There’s lots of mirrors.
3. There’s lots of playing with perception.

But, after Jerry Saltz’ rant, I’m afraid the New Museum will be overrun by crowds, and that it will be pervaded by playfulness and novelty that edges out reflexivity. In other words, my experience will be of a spectacle, and not of a phenomenological unravelling, of mystery unfolding into discovery, of the gradual maturity of an idea or sensibility.

While I work up my patience, I made it to see Jim Hodge’s excellent exhibitions at Gladstone Gallery (through December 23) today. At the 24th Street venue, there were three massive works, all masterfully accomplished. The first is a huge black glass mosaic tondo. During my visit it was a full circle; the website depicts the piece shown in segments. Indeed, during my visit I noticed unpainted patches on the wall, which I realize now were artifacts of this evolving display. It depicts flashes of light and sparkles, achieved only with the tile pattern. It’s spectacularly reflective and shimmering.

Adjacent to the tondo is an installation of a single, huge, slowly spinning, mirrored disco ball. Four programmed spotlights are pointed at it, so that the starry specs of light cast about the room move in multiple directions. If you’re moving at New York City speed, you’ll fail to notice that the disco ball is lowering very slowly. Indeed, if you stick around long enough, you will see it descend, unbelievably, into a circular hole jackhammered into the concrete floor, and filled with inky water. Indeed, the mirrored ball touches the surface, then becomes engulfed, achieving a slowly disappearing reflection of itself in the water, submerging completely until the room is still and dark. To transition from such a mesmerizing visual rhythm to stillness was markedly calming. Visiting galleries in Chelsea can seems like a Sisyphean task; this installation left me feeling grateful and centered.

At Hodges’ 20th Street show, I was utterly stumped by the technique behind the massive electroplated(?) boulders.

Andrea Bowers is a total beast with her graphite realism. She continues to be one of most unabashedly activist artists working today. Her show at Andrew Kreps (closing on Saturday) revisits second-wave feminist publications and posters, and combines them with devastatingly good pro-choice drawings and portraits of LGBTQ and worker’s rights demonstrators.

Ohad Meromi‘s inexplicably warm material manipulations—geometric, fundamental, recognizable, and yet fully conjectural—continue though Saturday at Harris Lieberman. A ballet bar lines the walls. Collages and their handmade plywood frames converge to become sculptural objects. A participatory “anti-performance workshop” is scheduled for Saturday 6pm.

Matthew Brannon at Casey Kaplan. Irresistible as usual letterpress/screenprints, plus 3-D translations in sculpture. The show is a crime thriller, staged in touches of fey powder pink, windowed office doors, and glossy hand-painted signs. It’s sort of literary and nostalgic and domestic. Between the pink, the letterpress, and the personally-scaled texts, I wonder if the work would be read or regarded differently if the artist was female. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. As Randy Cohen pointed out last night (at a great panel discussion at the intersection of ethics, psychology, and perception organized by No Longer Empty), a person might see clearly, but never objectively.


Duke Riley, Gary Hill, Erik Wysocan

I took a very brief jaunt around NYC’s Chelsea a few days ago and was enamored with the following shows:

Duke Riley: Two Riparian Tales of Undoing
Magnan Metz Gallery, 521 West 26th Street
Through April 9 (Last day is tomorrow!)

I’d adored a prior show at Magnan Metz Gallery on West 26th Street, and I was impressed again with the scope of Riley’s exhibition. There are two large, detailed shows that remind me of historical museums in different ways. The first, on one of Riley’s train-riding, hobo, antecedents was an immersive installation dotted with videos, dense smells and a massive-window-turned-lightbox featuring a handmade drawing. The second tells of Riley’s attempt to recover an island near Pennsylvania where said antecedent once squatted. This is told through mosaics, a delft-inspired plate collection, artifacts, rubbings, and a documentary video. I love that Riley, additionally a tattooist, clearly has a love of the drawn line, but his draftsmanship enhances—rather than defines—the scope of his inquiries.

The MM site appears to be down at the moment, so have a look at the photos that accompany Time Out’s review of the show.

Gary Hill: of surf, death, tropes & tableaux: The Psychedelic Gedankenexperiment
Gladstone Gallery, 515 West 24th Street
Through April 23

Hill presents a series of trip-out psychedelic projects, including 3-D videos, animations, a stereoscopic photo, and a video installation that exploits optical after burns. A molecule model, presumably of lysergic acid diethlyamide, recurs throughout, in a instance where constancy does not reassure. Nice install photos on Gladstone’s site.

Erik Wysocan: A Thousand and One Nights
Andrea Rosen, 525 West 24th Street
Through April 23

I originally plotted to see David Altmejd’s exhibition in the main gallery. His oversized plexiglass vitrine displaying thread and human anatomy of clay was interesting, however, I lingered much longer in Wysocan’s installation in the back room. Viewers pass through mock metal detectors to a security clearance and storage area.

What I loved most was the way Wysocan used light, lightboxes, plexiglass, and optical media to unique effects. He had two lightboxes featuring polarizing film sandwiched between glass sheets, one of which was broken. That, in turn was in front of a wrinkled sheet of clear cellophane. I spent a long time trying to figure out how it worked, what I was looking at, appreciating the optical effects, as well as the nice installation touches (such as running electrical leads behind the drywall).

He also had bass-ackwards vitrines where, presumably confiscated objects were on display, or not, in the case of one vitrine made of dark-tinted plexiglass where each object was carefully masked out. A number of reversals occurred where exterior-grade plywood pedestals were perched upon clear vitrines. Especially charming was a still-life of flowers in rococo vases, colors muted by their encasement in a tinted vitrine. Lots of great photos on Rosen’s site.