Critics’ Picks

Christian Marclay, Memento (Danny Davis), 2008, cyanotype, 51 1/2 x 99".

Christian Marclay, Memento (Danny Davis), 2008, cyanotype, 51 1/2 x 99".

New York

Christian Marclay

Paula Cooper Gallery | 534 West 21st Street
534 West 21st Street
September 2–October 11, 2008

One can barely think of Christian Marclay without thinking about music (hip-hop and punk rock come to mind first), as for over thirty years he has created smart visual and conceptual works that play against the ephemeral nature of sound and the fragility of its media. Although Marclay has tended toward deconstruction, destruction, intervention, and manipulation, the new works in this exhibition appear to be threnodies for two outmoded media: cyanotypes and cassette tapes. The gallery’s largest room features nine large cyanotype prints that the artist produced this year at the GraphicStudio at the University of South Florida, Tampa, a printing atelier known for its experimentation and, accordingly, an impressive roster of visiting artists. Smashed cassettes line the bottom of these works, with hanging and interweaving twisty tangles of ribbon swathing, stretching over, and sweeping across the silhouetted surface. Each of these works is aptly titled Memento, 2008, a reference to their look—party streamers left hanging after a rowdy night—and time-based production, as well as the near obsolescence of both media. Fans of International Klein Blue, Prussian blue, or just plain periwinkle take note: The oceanic backdrops of these prints are drop-dead gorgeous. While deep, gut-wrenching blues impart an atmospheric moodiness and melancholy to the exhibition, color isn’t the only captivating element here. What surprises is the fact that these works, though photographs, have a painterly feel and therefore seesaw back and forth between gestural abstraction and dry conceptualism.