Michel Gondry, The Science of Sleep Through September 30
In the same way that the main character enters his dreams in Michel Gondry’s new movie, The Science of Sleep, visitors at this show step inside the film and participate in its surreality. In the first room of the exhibit, viewers are invited to control the darling mug of the movie’s star, Gael Garcia Bernal: yanking on two ropes hanging from the ceiling miraculously opens and closes the actor’s eyes on a large screen nearby. Thus we enter his character’s dreamworld, a maze of quirky objects and sets — most notably, a desk with a bathtub embedded in it and a piano that plays a different silent video according to which key you hit — meaningless to those who haven’t seen the movie, but nonetheless intriguing. Unfortunately, what might otherwise be stimulating sculptural objects read instead as relics from the film, limiting their possibilities of being appreciated as works in themselves. Happily, the show ends with a room full of “pathological creepy little gifts” made by Gondry for five female friends whom he calls his muses. These objects are more mysterious than any of the pieces earlier in the show, by virtue of the fact that they’re not props from the film. As a result, each curious creation can be appreciated in its own right (as opposed to being part of a larger production). It is here that Gondry’s quirky genius shines.
Trace Through November 12
Wondering when the Whitney Altria sculpture court is going to finish construction on its interior? Look again: the makeshift-looking structures within the space are not part of a renovation project but rather an art exhibit — an underwhelming show entitled Trace. Karyn Olivier’s Junglegym looks like rickety scaffolding whose poplar ladders lead to nothing. Die Again (A Monument to Tony Smith), a black-painted plywood room by Ivan Navarro, is narrowly more elaborate on the inside than its spare exterior suggests, with mirrors and fluorescent bulbs creating the illusion (you’ve seen it before) of eternity. Karlis Rekevic’s Veracity, Validity, Fabrication, Facts? perhaps best fits the show’s title. White wood and plaster sculptures closely resemble the arching bridge outside of Grand Central’s main entrance (which is only a few feet from the exhibit) — the forms hold traces of great city architecture but are reduced to light, colorless versions of their more powerful originals.