Kinetic (Social) Sculpture

I can think of few better ways to celebrate a (nearly) completed project than an afternoon in the galleries. Today’s was a quick trip; there were only two shows on my list: Jean-Pierre Gauthier at Jack Schainman and Jason Polan at Nicholas Robinson.

First, Gauthier:

Jean-Pierre Gauthier, Stressato, Jack Shainman Gallery, NY, NY from shannon mattern on Vimeo.

Stressato is a responsive system — or, as the gallery’s website puts it: “When the viewer gets too close, the serpents become even more violently agitated, moving on a silicone-coated table with the agility and speed of samurai.”

Here, Thorax:

Thorax, a moving sound installation, creates modulations using air. Tubular metallic structures are mounted on the walls, while audio controls sit within the curves of their arabesques and spirals. Electronic circuits, electrical networks and pneumatic tubes are organically integrated with the cylindrical structures. Like a thorax or rib cage, the structures protect these vital elements, holding them in place.” The soundtrack — resembling wind and rain and waves — was fitting for a rainy day near the river.

I was drawn to Polan’s show because I liked his drawings, but it wasn’t until I walked through the doors and got my bearings that I realized that this show, too, was kinetic. As Polan charmingly describes it:

I will be in the space working for the first month of the exhibition. I will go home to sleep, but will try to spend the entire time the gallery is open in the space. I will have a desk I will work from as well as a tabletop copy machine to make works and new small editions of books as the show progresses. I will have the materials around me that I like to make work with. I will make drawings, paintings, sculptures, books, and more while I am in the space. I will talk to visitors (if they would like to) and their presence will affect the exhibition in different ways.

“Relational aesthetics, if you want to call it that,” wrote Roberta Smith, “has rarely seemed more charming, direct and user friendly.” It’s true. Never before have I been warmly greeted — by the artist and the guy-behind-the-desk (although in this case both were sitting on the steps) — upon entering a gallery. Nor have I been thanked for visiting on my way out. I wish I hadn’t been so thrown by the uncharacteristically welcoming atmosphere; I wish I had just sat down on the steps and talked for a while — but I was too stuck in the typical gallery behavioral codes.

The Color I See When I Close My Eyes: Black Crayon

My next trips — soon, I hope! — will be to Cory Arcangel @ the Whitney (curated by my colleague Christiane Paul), Ryan Trecartin @ PS1, and the “Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art” show at the Morgan Library (I invited Liza Kirwin, the show’s Smithsonian curator, to submit a piece to the “Notes, Lists & Everyday Inscriptions” issue of The New Everyday I edited last summer).

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