Cellar Door. Bitches.

When I don't have a lot of time to look at art in Chelsea I tend to hit up the big guns- Pace, Gagosian, Boone. I know this is wrong of me. I really should see the hard workings of younger galleries and artists but there is something about these cavernous spaces that exude a classicism and money that is like another planet to me. Kind of like the feeling I get in high end New York department stores too: a mix of trend, timelessness and beauty all dripping with high price tags and carried home by the towering deep pockets of a pearl clad world I will never understand! In fact, even the New York Times feels the same about a particular artist and his odd, giant show I recently saw over at Pace on W 25th St: "The French artist Loris Gréaud is young, handsome and exceedingly charming. He dates a model, he dresses in designer suits, and his production values would give any luxury brand a run for its money." See, the big galleries are just another Bloomies folks! Despite this kind of vapid outlook....Gréaud's show was a spectacle, a veneer of showyness but possibly with more than meets the eye....and nose.

Anyway...when walking into PACE the first thing you encounter is the imperceptible show title, Unplayed Notes, written in clear lettering on the wall above a set of sculptures of cracked, stone looking books...a bit much for an introduction! Then, you open a set of glass doors revealing a low humming, black room with chalky, gooey black walls and light fixtures that dangle from the ceiling with a mixture of what looks like meteors and tiny lights and metal lamp arms one would buy at Ikea. Then you enter some sort of glowing portal into a room that seems to buzz and hum like a good Sonic Youth song, or the ever-running Dreamhouse sound installation down in Tribeca, the sound a combination of a recorded soundtrack, a perceptible silence and the loud, clanking workings of a gorgeous GIANT film reel looper! The image the looper projects is one of smoke billowing underwater in a mirrored Rorschach/enantiomorphic chamber way...images that a filmmaker I was there with pointed out were  digitally manipulated, the edges showing an unsightly pixel quality (a thing that started to distract me given the insistence of the elegant, bombastic, costly loop machine and the general knowledge about the cost of printing film vs the quality of  the transfer....I know, I know, picky, picky, but hell, the coats in those department stores are weighted so as to make them sit in the most perfect shape as the fine example of craftmenship their prices suggest! Maybe it was an aesthetic choice though..?). The next room had a few rows of these pretty, large shrouded figures set atop pedestals...and it also smelled awful! Just awful! The walls had abstract images in blurry forms framed in grids from floor to ceiling, a nasty yellow glow emanated from the walls and the lights, the towering eerie figures seemed as if they were ready to pounce at any moment- a very physical immersion and eerie emotional response that I have felt very few times when encountering art...and usually only very good art. So, what does all this mean? I read what little I could find about the exhibit in attempts to decipher the meaning of all of this and I think I got there? A little?

The black chamber you first encounter behind PACE's pristine glass doors is made entirely out of burnt art and artists' proofs belonging to the artist. The creation of a unknown planetary landscape out of the ashes of ideas and creativity, destroying old thoughts to make way for new...neat. Next, it was Sonic Youth! Well, sort of...I am not actually sure because it seems Lee Renaldo recorded "the most beautiful guitar solo he could think of" while inside of an anechoic chamber which seems like it would produce a multi-layered silence? A chamber that acts as some sort of noise vacuum? Either way...the deep silence that was palpable mixed with the clanking loop machine mixed with whomever made the pulsating room sounds (that sounded a lot like Lee Renaldo) all made a soundscape that felt so whole and real you wanted to grab the sound from the air! Gréaud succeeded in making sound feel like it had tangible form- CRAZY!


The video...I don't know on this one...something about endless creation of ideas? Like Rorschach, a projection of what we want to see? Or our inner dialogue creating a pattern of endless expectation as the lush, stark image loops and loops on the wall? It was an excerpt from a longer film titled One Thousand Ways to Enter from a previous exhibition titled Cellar Door soo...maybe my hunch on the projection of our own endless desires is right? Regardless...it was a breathtaking display of experimental filmmaking! (Image at top & clip at bottom!) And that is what I personally saw in this work. The next room...the shrouded figures are ambiguous statues frozen in time...for me they seemed like a historic museum display whose pasts and mysteries are withheld, eerily towering down to avoid judgement or scrutiny, simple shrouds putting to rest the past but in such a tense display you feel like it will always haunt you- which it will! I liked this a lot. And the smell...an olfactory component/putrid odor that smelled like a cat urine drenched rug which, only upon deeper internet research, revealed to be a part of the artwork that was produced, along with scientists, to simulate what Mars probably smells like...? As the artist says "This year, it’s a bit of lemon and sulfur," ...so, this is what Mars would smell like? How strange...moving on....Then it turns out that the yellowish images on the wall were made by putting photosensitive material in museums in front of great works of art in attempts to capture "the aura" of the work. For those unfamiliar, the aura is loosely the emotional sense "the realm beyond the art" that an artwork can evoke: the thing that makes something art as opposed to just a thing...or just nothing. Reducing this idea to a physical state/form is also a pretty neat idea. And, I don't know whether Gréaud did capture the auras (tongue in cheek of course) or if he is an impeccable installation artist but...that room scared the hell out me! Seriously. Scary.



Ok, so, Loris Gréaud is some kind of art celebrity so it seems, meaning he'll keep making these huge displays of sexy money sexy art...usually I think I get bummed out about this kind of thing but, for once, I liked it! This work is fulfilling a role, it is making huge dark circus environments (often in collaboration with people of many disciplines, a thing that the artist seems to pride himself on/looks for validation in) that are meant to philosophically ask questions about the world and our minds. Usually art that is both showy and ambiguous- art that I need to spend time to research to win a bet over whether the foul smell was intentional- is a thing that I worry about not immediately engaging on a thought provoking level. But, this show left enough open ends and did so with enough sensory stimulation to force me to fill in the blanks both with my own mind and by seeking out answers...a thing that any good artist/philosopher should be doing! I didn't think they let empiricists into department stores...maybe the comparison was unfair? (wink) I snatched all of these images from the web not wanting to disrupt an engaged group of European tourists in the gallery by taking pictures- imagine an old rickety Italian man coming up to you with a thick accent going "It is beautiful, BEAUTIFUL!" as he gazed up with awestruck glassy eyes at the flowing liquid clouds ballooning into an infinite endless wonder of moving image and time engulfed in a deep, deep silence...and you know what, it most definitely was beautiful! (Note: Does this possibly justify overspending money on an impeccable piece of department store clothing? Or a piece of lavish yet thought provoking art?..if only!)

 

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