Otherworldly

02/15/2006 12:00 AM |

Space Boomerang
Swiss Institute
495 Broadway, Soho

For Space Boomerang, curator Marc-Olivier Wahler has turned the Swiss Institute gallery into a dark cave full of swirling smoke, weird smells, and startling vibrations. Named after the Boomerang nebula, the coldest known place in the universe, the show evokes a Space Odyssey-era fantasy about the cosmos. Like a newly discovered planet, the exhibition teems with strange, inanimate objects moving of their own accord. Lang/Baumann’s long wall of lights lends a retro-glam ambiance to the tableau and Loris Greaud’s Spirit fills the air with a slimy fragrance based on descriptions of Mars. Greaud’s other piece, Tremors are forever, generates disturbingly strong vibrations in one of the gallery walls, and next to it Ann Veronica Janssens’ Freak Star illuminates a star in a cloud of smoke. It’s theatrical and fun, like an old-fashioned haunted house — but that, miraculously enough, doesn’t cheapen the art. Instead, Wahler draws out the mystery and drama of artworks that may have seemed banal in a white cube.

Andrea Zittel: Critical Space
New Museum of Contemporary Art
556 W 22nd St

The first word that comes to mind in describing Andrea Zittel’s art is Gesamtkunstwerk, or Total Artwork. Originally used by Richard Wagner to describe his integration of the arts, the term is just as appropriate for Zittel, who employs fashion design, architecture, interior design, cooking, painting, and sculpture to investigate the human need for order. Zittel asserts that self-imposed regulations can be more liberating than pure freedom, and uses her own lifestyle to test this idea. This show includes dozens of the dresses she makes, which she wears every day for six months, and several of the living units she designs for herself and for collectors. Combining California modernism and the modular principles of Le Corbusier, her living spaces are sleek and pint-sized. The living units never impressed me when I saw them in group shows, but in the context of her other work, they are connected to studies of animal breeding structures and to her extreme personal regimens. This retrospective proves that Zittel is one of the few artists who erases all boundaries between life and art.