This week at The L Magazine I discuss new exhibits by Spencer Finch and William Cordova. The teaser below.
If it takes a gallery-goer several days of contemplation to figure out the meaning of an artwork, is it flawed? Both old master paintings and contemporary art pieces often unfold over the course of many years, but because so much new art makes durational demands of a viewer without looking like much, it’s hard to know what’s worth the time. As I finished walking through Chelsea the other day, Spencer Finch at Postmasters and William Cordova at Sikkema Jenkins had me wondering how much substantive value was gained through esoteric references.
Spencer Finch’s backroom installation Paper Moon, (Studio Wall at Night) at Postmasters was what set me off, though even the gallery describes its recreation of studio shadows as “very boring and clearly not for everyone.” The piece is little more than a room divider with a poorly cut out window and rickety train set running on one side of the wall. Initially, I dismissed it without much thought—the remnants of light aren’t actually that interesting to experience no matter whose studio it falls in—but after further contemplation, I began to doubt that first impression. Instead, I began to interpret its pathetic craft as a humorously self-deprecating statement on the skills needed to make art by the artist. It’s probable both takes are correct, which leaves one weighting the value of each.
Given the context of the show, I’m inclined to think the added interpretation doesn’t amount to much. After all, prior to making it to the back gallery, viewers are subjected to a giant kumbaya circle of colored candles and the grating exhibition title, The Brain—Is Wider Than The Sky. The quote comes from an Emily Dickinson poem and relates to the mostly melted candle piece, which is a memorial to the poet. As the press release informs the viewer, 366 candles burn, one per day, in homage to Dickinson’s massive 1862 production of the same number of poems. Each colored candle corresponds to a color mentioned in her poem, except when no color is mentioned (in which case natural wax is used). It’s an A+B=intellect-takes-you-to-heaven kind of piece, which made me hope I would never be damned to the dreary pretension of afterlife.
To read the full piece, click here.