Critics’ Picks

Cal Siegel, Eight Gables for Mickey, 2018, wood, acrylic, shingles, 120 x 96 x 12".

Cal Siegel, Eight Gables for Mickey, 2018, wood, acrylic, shingles, 120 x 96 x 12".

New York

Cal Siegel

CUE Art Foundation
137 W 25th Street Ground Floor
January 10–February 13, 2019

History is violent. The work in Cal Siegel’s current show, “I am the box no roof can cover,” reaches into the sordid depths of American antiquity and the artist’s personal mythology. Hailing from small-town Massachusetts, Siegel is haunted by the architecture and iconography of his childhood environs. Witch house drive by, 2017, is a suite of a dozen silver gelatin prints of images Siegel captured while driving past the home of Jonathan Corwin, one of the judges who presided over the Salem witch trials. The Corwin residence is a rare example of a seventeenth-century, First Period Colonial American home. It is identifiable by its steeply pitched roof and three-story plan, in which the larger first and second levels sit atop the smaller bottom floor, giving the edifice a spectral, fairy-tale quality. Siegel built a scaled-down version of a First Period home and affixed it to the hood of his car. His model obstructs the original “witch house” in the first seven photos, obfuscating the past with the present, while the shadowy face of Siegel’s brother, who was driving, blocks the Corwin manse in the final image.

The star of the show is Eight Gables for Mickey, 2018. Made from wood and stained dollhouse shingles, it’s a ten-foot-tall and twelve-inch-wide sculpture of a domicile that employs the Colonial visual language. Tall, narrow, and stygian black, sans windows and doors, it is less a replica than an entity, haunting the gallery. Finally, there’s a modestly sized photo, which shares its title with the show. Siegel took it from a pitched roof in Maine, looking out over the ocean. The water’s currents are framed by trees, dead and dying, during a New England winter. All that’s before the camera—unknown, dangerous, enticing—along with all that’s behind and beneath it, is surely the same.