Critics’ Picks

View of “Chris Dougnac: Temple, Rock, Cloud,” 2022–23.

View of “Chris Dougnac: Temple, Rock, Cloud,” 2022–23.


Chris Dougnac

The Bakehouse Art Complex
561 NW 32nd Street
November 5, 2022–March 19, 2023

Entering Chris Dougnac’s current exhibition here, “Temple, Rock, Cloud,” is an uncanny experience. The walls are coated with a color of paint that calls to mind the chroma-key green used in filmmaking, while the floor is covered with fake grass. Twelve latex-on-canvas paintings are hung on walls, while one is propped up in the center of the room on metal struts—a faux boulder sits behind it. The canvases are replicas of works by Nicolas Poussin, the originals of which are on display in Gallery 825 of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Dougnac’s renegade images are rendered in shades of acid green, yet the majority of the French master’s human subjects have been removed, leaving only woozy, abandoned-looking landscapes. The rock hides a subwoofer that releases infrasound waves at 18.9 Hz, a frequency below the range of human hearing that can cause vibrations between objects—including our eyeballs—and can even produce hallucinations. These waves may explain why some places feel “haunted,” as British researcher and engineer Vic Tandy (1955–2005) once suggested. It’s imperceptible at first, but with careful scrutiny you’ll see that the work at the heart of this presentation, Tech Demo #3 [Abduction of the Sabine Women, 1637–1638], 2022, quivers.

The artist creates a setting of off-kilter unease, situating us somewhere between Poussin’s classical ideals of the natural world and the trickery of digital technology. Yet one wonders if these aspects are so different, as both have the potential to alter our physical environment as well as our perceptions of it. The gallery here is a conduit, akin to the television set in the 1982 horror film Poltergeist; a discordant gap (or bridge?) between states. Among other things, Dougnac exposes the types of artifice or stagecraft involved in the displaying and reception of art, and how these methods can be utilized to induce near-celestial reverence. Toward the end of his life, Poussin suffered from a trembling in his hands that affected his ability to paint—a ghostly echo realized in Dougnac’s deftly enigmatic exhibition.