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Art Mon Oct 26 2009
As I approached the entrance to Three Perspectives and a Short Scenario, Liam Gillick's new survey at the MCA, I noticed a man in front of me amble up to it, pause at the edge of it, and stick his head in, quickly accessing the room to make sure there was nothing worth actually entering the room for, and abruptly turn and walk away.
If you have more patience for contemporary art than him, you will actually enter the room, spend a few minutes with the work, a few more minutes reading the wall text, and likely walk out confused and disappointed.
The first thing you will probably notice as you approach the installation is the repetitive industrial drumbeat. Upon entering, you will be corralled around the half carpet, half concrete space by gate-like black wooden screens. Multicolored translucent tiles overhead filter the light, creating a subtle pink glow.
Straight ahead is a sketchy caricature drawing and a op-arty graphic representation of a deconstructed cubic shape. Above the "cube" are the words, "deferral, detour, discussion, documentary." In the corner is a display case holding posters, books, publications, and other objects Gillick made earlier in his artistic oeuvre. According to a friend of mine who majored in graphic design, the objects in the case are beautiful.
Three Perspectives and a Short Scenario is a collaboration between four international art institutions, the installation manifesting itself in a different form at each museum. First, the Kunsthalle Zurich presented a solo show that ran parallel to his exhibit at the Witte de With in Rotterdam; this was followed by a "scenario" at Kunstverein München; and concludes with the MCA exhibition.
The most interesting thing about Three Perspectives and a Short Scenario is the way it was curated. Rather than adhere to a traditional artist/curator collaboration, each of the four manifestations has featured a handful of consistent elements from Gillick, mingling with unique contributions from each host institution. For the MCA, curator Dominic Molon made the decision to replace the translucent white ceiling tiles with multi-colored tiles.
One of the nice things about the show at the MCA is that we have the supplementary Artists in Depth show, curated by Gillick, across the hall to help us place his work into context. There, Gillick's colorful sculptural work sparkles alongside work by conceptual and minimalist predecessors such as Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, and Jenny Holzer.
Three Perspectives and a Short Scenario works best as contextualizing tool, a platform for viewing Gillick's "real" work, as seen in the Artists in Depth show, rather than a collection of art in and of itself. If viewed as art, it comes off as stingy and elitist. And perhaps, even for the elite, it's a little confusing-- like a puzzle that can't be put together, or a trick candle. What are we supposed to take from this work?
The installation doesn't do much for the gallery space, nor vice-versa, either, which is especially disappointing given that it is a site specific installation and a collaborative effort between two professional space-makers: Gillick and Molon. It creates a mood, which is good, but it's hard not to create a mood when you're working with such a giant space. It feels like an empty nightclub in Berlin, in the middle of the day. But where is the bar? This work makes me want to drink.
Three Perspectives and a Short Scenario will be up through January 10th.