The Quality of Presence
Curated by Dmitry Komis
April 27 – April 29, 2012
Opening reception: Thursday, April 26, 6 – 9pm
With: Alvin Baltrop, Carol Bove, Kathe Burkhart, Tom Burr, Colette, Anne-Lise Coste, Jen DeNike, Graham Durward, Ryan Foerster, Scott Hug, Veruschka von Lehndorff, Lily Ludlow, Robert Mapplethorpe, Megan Marrin, Thomas Øvlisen, Walter Pfeiffer, Michael Rouillard, Job Piston, Alan Ruiz, Desi Santiago, Marc Scrivo, Joshua Seidner, Diego Singh, Paul Thek, Panos Tsagaris, Johanna Unzueta, Ricardo Valentim, Miguel Villalobos, Christian Wassmann, Tennessee Williams, Robert Wilson, Francesca Woodman, Zaldy…
The Quality of Presence is a group exhibition that employs Walter Benjamin’s seminal text The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction as a point of departure, and extends Benjamin’s argument of a diminishing “aura” of an artwork to the architectural space that encompasses
The exhibition takes place in a recently vacated suite at the Chelsea Hotel, a legendary home to countless artists, writers, poets, and cultural figures with a rich and tumultuous history and an uncertain future. Often called the “last great bastion of bohemia,” The Chelsea Hotel has been vilified, exorcised, eulogized and resurrected many times over since its inauguration as New York’s tallest building in 1884. Some artists in the exhibition have lived, or passed through, the Chelsea. Others were and continue to be inspired by it.
In recent years, the Hotel has undergone consecutive changes in ownership and management, leaving dozens of its long-time residents in a perpetual state of limbo. Artwork that has long graced the walls of the lobby, halls, and staircase has disappeared, baffling visitors and residents alike; all that remains is the trace of presence. In one sense it is a space that no longer exists.
The exhibition operates in this in-between space and invites artists from disparate fields and generations to respond and engage with the environment, which retains the scars of its former inhabitants. Not to be confused: this is not a nostalgic look back, but rather a circumscribed vetting of the bodies and poetics that intermingle in this contested space.
The works in the show point to a tension between the glamour and decadent squalor that the space personifies. A door, a chair, a sink, a mirror, a lamp, a candelabra, and other domestic signifiers populate the space to suggest a lingering presence. A number of artists hint at a subliminal in-
habitance by camouflaging and dissecting the body or by appropriating a figurative stance. Others reject the figure and the representational in favor of a tactile relation to materials. Past and present mirror one another, while projections of figures on the verge of action inserted throughout the space eschew a fixed narrative in favor of an ambiguous and open-ended potentiality.
In The Architectural Uncanny, the architecture historian Anthony Vidler exposes the psychology of interior space, uncovering an interest in the “spatial uncanny” – building on Freud’s theory of the “individual uncanny” – as manifested in the privacy of the interior and acting as a metaphor of the “unhomely” condition. In other words, this architectural uncanny – “necessarily ambiguous, combining aspects of fictional history, its psychological analysis, and its cultural manifestations” – exposes our fundamental insecurity and estrangement from our domestic environment. The history of the Chelsea, with its majestic triumphs, harrowing overdoses, and sublime (self)-destructions, is emblematic of this condition and functions in a state of perpetual unease.
This show builds on these themes, and in keeping with the transient, “uncanny” spirit of the Chelsea Hotel, explores absence and presence, desire and domesticity and unhinged decadence within a shifting cultural landscape.
The exhibition will be open from 11am – 7pm Friday, April 27 through Sunday, April 29, and by appointment. For Press, Sales, and Appointment inquiries, please contact Dmitry Komis via firstname.lastname@example.org or 646.750.3368.
222 W. 23rd St, Suite 302
New York, NY 10011