Can’t Get There From Here
May 17 – June 30, 2012
I’ve been there; I know the way. You can’t get there from here; you are already there. Just what does an artwork promise? What promises did it hold for the artist during its creation? What do you–as the curious, seemingly lacking viewer–now want from it? Standing in front of a photograph or a drawing or a video, what do you really expect them to provide to you? Apotheosis (access to a final divine realm)? Sublimity (aesthetic arrest)? Ecstasy (full release from the body)? Transport (to another time, place)? Transference (psychological, emotional, historical)? Edification (moral or intellectual uplifting)? The works in Can’t Get There From Here were assembled precisely because they aspire to these things but do so while questioning the very motives and potential denouements of those aspirations.
The exhibition has two historic lodestars–a unique color photograph of the sky over Nevada by Richard Misrach (representing the drive to access the sublime) and a gelatin silver print of an prehistoric, underwater diorama shot in a natural history museum by Hiroshi Sugimoto (the promise of transport to another time). The other works in the Can’t Get There From Here navigate around these guides. Isaac Layman’s brooding, large-scale photograph (attempting apotheosis) reads as if the Misrach has gone cloudy or the Sugimoto fathoms deeper, but is nothing but potato chip grease on small piece of glass. The drawings and video by Amanda Manitach (truth is a woman (in ecstasy)) are based on Bernini’s masterpiece, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, as well as Deleuze’s exegesis on ‘folds’ and Pierre Klossowski’s hallucinogenic novel on possession and transgression, The Baphomet. Serrah Russell takes arrested aesthetically Polaroids of select pages of National Geographic magazines carefully placed in right-here-right-now landscapes (the anti-sublime, or the the conceits of edification, and transport to another place). Finally, the stop-motion animations by Britta Johnson of doorways sealing over with wax allow a glimpse of an entombment from two oppositional perspectives (psychological and physical transference par excellence). If you’ll allow us some curatorial leeway, there is one missing artist in the exhibition. When conceiving the show it was hard not to think of the last work by Bas Jan Ader wherein he embarked on a single-handed, cross-Atlantic voyage in 1975 and was never heard from again. Ader titled this tragic, failed(?) performance piece, In Search of the Miraculous, which can easily serve as the subtitle and Joycean “secret cause” of this exhibition. As the title of a documentary on the artist’s work, Here is Always Somewhere Else, implies…Ader has been there; he know’s the way.
If a great hubris of gallery press releases is the assumption that art is exponible–that it lacks something or is so obscure that only writing can make up for it–throw this press release away. The works in this exhibition aim to prove that you lack nothing. You already have everything you need. “The Kingdom of Heaven is spread upon the earth and people do not see it.” You can’t get there from here; you’re already there.