Wicked Artsy: Get Installed

03/06/2009 4:36 PM |

We increasingly tend to think of all contemporary art as some sort of installation art. After all, most painters don’t just produce a stand-alone canvas, but envision it being encountered in a certain order among their other works, from certain vantage points, illuminated in a certain manner, hung at a certain height, etc. To paraphrase what a famous music critic once wrote about rap, installation art has become the dominant visual art paradigm by incorporating every other genre. Still, it’s useful to bear in mind how installations can incorporate other art forms, as with three current exhibitions throughout the city.

At the relatively new LMAKProjects space on the Lower East Side, Dutch artist Lisselot van der Heijden continues her ruminations on nature with her installation Dissonance, which incorporates video art and subtle performances by the artist and visitors. With live feeds and video of a mounted deer head, van der Heijden brings us into the work, projecting our image on the gallery wall as we move further into the installation. Mounting viewers’ heads alongside the starring deer, she undermines the ways we represent and isolate nature in museum displays (accompanying photographs show visitors at the American Museum of Natural History) and mediated encounters like TV programs. Her installation points (almost too) cautiously to a fundamental disconnection between the ways we think of nature and the lived reality of those endangered spaces and species.

At the ever-inventive Cueto Projects in Chelsea, artist collective The Bruce High Quality Foundation’s exhibition Empire (left) re-imagines another mediated, perpetually endangered space: New York City. Fusing painting, sculpture, photography and video, they’ve created a fair in which each work offers a new (or old) version of the city based on utopian architectural and urban theories. One piece turns New York into a giant pizza (Famous Ray’s, surely), its buildings strewn about like so many mushrooms and anchovies. Elsewhere the city grid becomes rows of ceramic slot machines. Coming to the city is a gamble, certainly, and we’re left to ponder how long we can stand to lose before the flashing lights and loud noises lose their luster. These and other works cast the city as a place of dreary routines and magical transformations.

At Long Island City’s Sculpture Center, meanwhile, a group show features artist using installation art to undermine what we conventionally think of as sculpture, installation and art itself. From a series of empty frames to a make-shift artist’s studio, ready-made installations and a video art project about sourcing dates to be the first post-invasion import from Iraq (don’t miss the four varieties of free dates for sampling), the artists in The Space of the Work and the Place of the Object (right) cast their net mighty wide. What they come up with is a broad program for art that is political, self-critical and much more than an object placed in an empty space for contemplation by detached visitors. All three of these exhibitions depend on our presence to work. Like sci-fi machines that feed on human bodies, without an audience these artworks revert to their object states, a lesson from mid-century modernism taken a step further by installation artists.

Lisselot van der Heijden: Dissonance at LMAKprojects, 139 Eldridge St (between Delancey and Broome Sts), until March 29
The Bruce High Quality Foundation: Empire at Cueto Project, 551 W 21st St (near Eleventh Ave), until April 11.
The Space of the Work and the Place of the Object at Sculpture Center, 44-19 Purves St (near Jackson Ave), until March 22