Critics’ Picks

Monica Bonvicini, Never Again, 2005. Installation view.

Monica Bonvicini, Never Again, 2005. Installation view.


“Art Against Architecture”

National Gallery of Iceland
Fríkirkjuvegur 7
May 16–June 29, 2008

Should art fill space or actively construct it? This seems to be the premise of “Art Against Architecture,” a group show held in this challenging space. (The museum, built according to a 1980s-era postmodern style, is the antithesis of the white cube.) Monica Bonvicini has been interested in architecture for some time, especially its relationship to issues of sex and gender. Her installation, Never Again, 2005, consists of a series of leather and chain hammocks suspended from metal scaffolding; viewers are invited to sit on them, filling the space with the sound of jangling metal. At the exhibition’s entrance, Franz West posters welcome attendees, while deeper within, Icelandic artist Finnbogi Pétursson, known for his enchanting sound installations, turns a dark room into a meditative corner by magnifying and projecting the flickering flame of a candle across four walls. Video artist Steina (a founder of the Kitchen in New York in 1971) transforms a dark room into an observatory within which to admire the vertiginous rotations of an object that at first sight resembles Earth as seen from outer space. The most engaging work in the exhibition is Elín Hansdóttir’s Path, 2008. Hidden behind a heavy metal door (and limited to only one viewer at a time), the installation consists of a dark and eerie labyrinth, which extends for some distance. Left alone, the participant zigzags blindly, winding around sharp corners and through corridors only three to four feet wide. A deeply claustrophobic experience, the work introduces expectations that are never fulfilled; eventually, you simply reach a dead end and have to walk back.