Critics’ Picks

Bill Jenkins, Cistern 1, 2014, ductwork, basin, dimensions variable.

New York

Bill Jenkins

Laurel Gitlen
122 Norfolk Street
May 18 - June 22

The premise of “Wet Light,” Bill Jenkins’s second solo show with Laurel Gitlen, establishes a lofty, almost fantastic goal: the transfiguration of light into a malleable, containable substance. Taking on the primary element of Brian O’Doherty’s white cube, Jenkins sets a glittering prelude, with twisted metallic sheets in the gallery windows, and he offers his viewers a disclaimer for his poetic intentions: “Technically it’s not going to work very well.”

Apprehension aside, his initial goal materializes in a series of vents, which Jenkins calls “ductwork,” unceremoniously duct-taped under inky masses of black plastic sheeting, which lead to a utilitarian-looking basin on the far-right wall. A soft, eerie glow draws the viewer to this would-be pool, where three sculptural apparatuses release the light siphoned from the installation in the gallery windows. The middle piece is especially noteworthy, a cylindrical metal tube that deposits its electromagnetic cache in a dazzling array of patterns on the floor of the basin.

On the other end of a narrow cinder-block hallway is a second cistern, a small room enclosed floor to ceiling in opaque plastic sheeting, which glows from a skylight and transposes the same eggshell brightness of the first basin on the entirety of the space. While the contrast of this overtly luminous Cistern 2, 2014, is aesthetically pleasing, it lacks the grandeur and transformative ambition of its caliginous cousin. In the end, it is the fluidity of “Wet Light” that bests Jenkins’ infrastructure, with his alchemic aspirations delivering some compelling moments of visual and conceptual poetry.