Adam McEwen’s tour-de-force installation, Switch and Bait, sucks all the air out of the room, and this feels perfect. In an otherwise empty space on West 20th Street, McEwen has installed 45 fluorescent light fixtures overhead. It’s like an upside-down Walter De Maria or Dan Flavin piece. Each bulb is dark gray and is made of machined graphite. Somehow your body feels the pull of the graphite, like it’s us. The lights become a homing beacon or a death force, while the room transforms into a sepulchre. It’s a metaphysical dead zone and walk-in aesthetic echo chamber. In the next room there’s Self-portrait as a credit card, an American Express card made of machined graphite. The card is too cheeky for me, but the overall effect is still a look at the hyped-up market after it’s been freeze-dried, cremated, and reduced to ash.
At Deitch Projects, Jon Kessler gives us a mad, whirling circus of spinning cameras, television monitors, toy soldiers being dragged around on their asses, visions of torture, mayhem, sex, and clowns. All this is installed under an enormous army tent. As high-tech as this installation is, Kessler gets beyond the highly produced objects and immerses us in a continuous feed: His work illustrates the repercussions of our own actions and intimates the collapse of social order. While it may not be the “reckoning” our president spoke of last month, it does baptize you in a feeling of confusion and hope, and makes you aware that sometimes there’s nothing in between.
Rudolf Stingel portrays all these feelings poignantly in his three small black-and-white photo-realistic canvases of sculptures of saints, hung one per wall in the enormous churchlike cavern of the Paula Cooper Gallery. Stingel escapes the irony and kitsch of the recent past and gives us an atmospherics of melancholy and love. I wouldn’t want any of these paintings individually, but together they charge the gallery with thoughts about what it takes to create shows in the wake of orgiastic abundance. Stingel’s installation is a requiem for the white cube and a fond farewell to the last fifteen years. These four shows make you understand that while the market is dying, art is in the process of being reborn. They may not be remembered in ten years, but right now that doesn’t matter.