Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Name of the Thing One Sees

We saw a bunch of gallery shows when we were in New York last week, but my favorites by far were Robert Irwin at Pace Wildenstein (above) and Fred Sandback at David Zwirner.

These massive Robert Irwin pieces at Pace were totally overwhelming. The fluorescent lighting patterns immediately called to mind letterforms and swastikas – symbols that convey meaning, whether they are letters put together to form words, or a swastika, which has a ton of meaning certainly in the twentieth century, but also as the oldest known symbol. So I found that, staring into these harsh lights, I was almost urgently trying to pull meaning out of the patterns, but realizing that ultimately they are just formations that in and of themselves had no meaning. If that makes sense.

Fred Sandback's show at David Zwirner was also really intense. These "panels" you see in the photo (see more here) are actually just pieces of string attached to the ceiling and the floor and pulled extremely tight at 90º angles. You could walk right through them if you wanted – but when you're standing next to them, it feels eerie, like if you did walk through them you might enter another world or slam against a forcefield, like a kid running through a screendoor. I found myself thinking about walls and doorways a little differently as we walked around Chelsea for the rest of the afternoon.

There were other bright spots (I liked this photograph by Carolee Schneeman at the Carolina Nitsch Project Room, for example) but overall it was a bit lackluster. No matter, those first two shows were so memorable, it was worth the time.

We also had time for a quick run through Soho one morning. We saw this show at Team Gallery featuring the work of Gardar Eide Einarsson, Davis Rhodes, and Stanley Whitney

…which reminded me of the more geometric elements of Bas Louter's current show at Ambach & Rice (formerly OKOK Gallery, pictured above) in Ballard.

And we tried to see the Stephen Sprouse show at Deitch Projects, but were a little too early and they weren't open (click here to see some images from the show, though judging from a peek through the window, that doesn't really do it justice). It's sort of a bummer to miss things on a quick trip like this, because it's not like we can just go back over there and see it tomorrow or something – but it was great to cruise through our old haunts and see what we saw.

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