BWW Reviews: Carissa Rodriguez 'La Collectionneuse' at Front Desk Apparatus
Annina Nosei once told me it is a great idea to open an art gallery across from a major Museum. Larry Gagosian's uptown gallery on Madison Avenue is a block from the Whitney. No doubt his intent was to be in the shadow of the Whitney or to cast his shadow on the Whitney- you be the judge. Down the avenue at 218 Madison Avenue in Suite 4c is Rob Teeter's Front Desk Apparatus across from the Morgan Library.
Mr. Teeters had no intent to drift off the Morgan. The Whitney Museum up the avenue will find it's future biennale artists from young dealers like Mr. Teeters who are replacing the older guarde of art dealers. Front Desk Apparatus originally opened on King street downtown in a townhouse 4 years ago. It was there that I saw an exhibition in which Jacob Kassay's silver plated canvas's where going for $2,000 and $4,000. If I only knew then what I know now; Jacob's works have sold for over $100,000!
Money is not everything in the art world, I hear Larry choking on his croissant. Aesthetics are the champion of the day at Front Desk Apparatus's challenging conceptual exhibition schedule. It is a bite sized DIA updated with a more contemporary international feel for those not ready for a Metro North ride up to Beacon, NY and only willing to ride the 4,5 or 6 train.
Carissa Rodriguez's exhibition "La Collectionneuse" opened on Monday May 6th and runs through September 6th. Read the press release before you go or at least bring your reading glasses. This is not art that presents itself in beautifully reflected ponds or moving skies. This is an art that will massage your mind only if you make the effort to open up to it, to read it and to reread it, to work for it. Is there anything worth achieving that does not require work, does Hegel and Nietzsche come easy?
Upon entering the space the first thing you feel is cut off. There is a room built within the smallish gallery space with only a cramped walkway around. It is as if the artist is saying, stop, look and listen, this is not your Grandmother's art gallery. The interior room was set up to both block the traditional gallery lighting and to highlight it. The white lit three sided room brings Dan Flavin's work with light to mind without all the fluff. Indeed Dan's work has little fluff and I jest to emphasize how austere and severe Rodriguez's work is.
I spoke with Ms. Rodriquez and she explained how in a way her installation is a reversal of Mr. Flavin's aesthetic. Dan's work often colored the given gallery and museum space. Carissa's work harness' the space and conforms it to her will as she focuses on the light. What of this white lit unhung three sided room glowing in the reverberating fluorescent light that presents like a vacuum tube with the art-life sucked out of it.? Immediately a harsh critique of gallery white walls come to mind. Essays and aesthetics have been and should continue to focus on the gallery white wall, it unnatural nature, its bourgeoisie nature, it's fairy tale like existence and more. Ms. Rodriquez's light mimics the severe light galleries use to best show art for photographing the work for sale and not for viewing. She is commenting on the packaging of the art even in it's presentation light which is not in the best interest of the viewing public.
There is a rack of postcards, free for the taking, that highlight the existence of three identical works in three different collector's homes. The leveling, the degradation of the art work in a plain black and white reproduction and the re-visioning and placing of the art work in the collectors environment reveals both a slice portrayal, a small shot of what the work really is and a trail of the lives of her art work as they live in the collector's home. Indeed just seeing the different settings and how the same work feels different depending on where it is, makes you realize how interdependent art is upon it's environment and gives added appreciation for architects that always have to deal with the building surrounding their proposals and the influence the existing space has on what ever is plopped into it. I have re-photographed the black and white postcards with my i-phone purposely distorting the work to overemphasize the loss of the actual image in the re-imaging of the work (and yes, I did not have my Rollei with me).
There are three sculptures, small ceramic cylindrical vessels with razor blades protruding over the edge of the glass shelve. The sculptures are pulled from an artist's creation in the film by Eric Rohmer from which the exhibition gets its name. Rohmer's main characters play rolls in the art world; there is the artist, the gallerist and the jeune-fille who is the collector of their love.
Rodriquez's work speak of these hierarchies and she uses an analogy of the tongue in Chinese medicine and it's role to read and to discern the nature of the body. It is the tongues verbal ability that is seen as the highest form of communication, the concept behind the art is heralded as opposed to the artwork. In the end, literally, the bleached white interior room is offered as an analogy to a bleached anus in pornographic portrayal- an unfair reproduction of reality. This is not the ideal space for artist to be called to perform, to be called to present, to be called to be in your Hegelian isness.
Today art students are packaged with a proper BFA and MFA and the way to write about their art, how to speak about their art, how to market their art and how to do it all without feeling or being anything. Ms Rodriquez's work participates in the recent trend to dis the structure of the art world- what has taken so long?
Could you get any of this without reading the print out at the entrance? Yes, some of it at best but none of it at most. Does it matter? Is it up to us to go reading to learn, ready to see and to learn to see? I met a woman who did not like the show; However, hearing her struggle with the show was brilliant. She kept saying she should be open to it, she should not have a predefined idea of what she should see in a gallery. She was upset there was no eye candy, no reflective ponds even though she was a full throttle contemporary art aficionado.
Today's new important gallerist are not like the old guarde gallerists that have grown lame and are just bankers and brokers for hedge fund managers and collectors steering works to storage immediately after they are bought. The new gallerist offers the meat off the bone, the content found in the floral flow of words and ideas on the printed page in the dreaded description of what the artist is saying. Should we dread this, should we welcome it, should we refuse to read it and demand our art present itself without words in its immediate form of line, color, light and plane et al? I cannot say for sure. Having the gallerist, the artist and the very upset explain their point of views made me see more than the art could offer on its own. Maybe Dewey was correct but he needed to extend his experience of art to a group experience. After all, is not all art a discussion with the past to represent a new future.
Carissa Rodriguez's work is concurrently on view at The Sculpture Center through July 22nd in the "Better Homes" group exhibition. You can also see her work in the group show "ProBio" opening May 12th at MOMA's PS1 in conjunction with EXPO1 through September 2nd.