Paul Chan

Greene Naftali Gallery
508 West 26th Street, Ground floor and 8th Floor
March 3, 2017–April 15, 2017

Paul Chan, Pentasophia (or Le bonheur de vivre dans la catastrophe du monde occidental) (Pentasophia [or The happiness of living in the disaster of the western world]), 2016, nylon, metal, concrete, shoes, fans, various papers, 151 x 130 x 98".

For his current exhibition here, Paul Chan has made nylon figures—hooded, tapered, or headless—fixed atop fans that inflate and animate them in wild contortions and macabre dance. Electrical cables run from power outlets via concrete-filled shoes, a grounding device that connects each “breather” to the corporeal and domestic. Some forms are presented with props such as a rug, a flag, or turf, further pointing to human connectivity. On the walls hang symbolic ink-on-paper charts of stitching patterns used to achieve particular airflows and movements. Individually and in groups, the works play out an eerie dichotomy as they billow, fall, and swell. They seem tormented by the relentless roar and thrust, or are perhaps lost in diabolical reverie; the ritualistic, operatic melee seems threatening while evoking pity for the wraiths’ storm-tossed plights.

The largest installation is Pentasophia (or Le bonheur de vivre dans la catastrophe du monde occidental) (Pentasophia [or The happiness of living in the disaster of the western world]), 2016, which consists of five linked specters on a stage, arranged around a well with the letters R-I-R-I-M-K-M-I painted along its interior—an invocation of the demon Naberius. But as with many works here it is the beguiling rhythm of the breathers that creates the spectacle and poignancy, rendering much of the supporting material extraneous. This is exemplified in the quieter, hunched loner, Le Baigneur 1 (The Bather 1), 2016, whose simple, swaying manner is acutely sorrowful. Chan harnesses the very air we breathe, in concert with oppositional forces—lift and gravity—to convey mesmerizing emotivity and imbue his aerodynamic marvels with an elementally designed sorcery.

— Darren Jones