Critics’ Picks

Something Like This, 2002. Installation view.

Something Like This, 2002. Installation view.

New York

Clara Williams

Nicole Klagsbrun
526 West 26th Street Room 318
January 4–February 9, 2002

Clara Williams finds an effective second use for a few of those surplus Christmas trees recently discarded in “Something Like This,” her first solo show in New York. In a gallery heaped with Styrofoam snow and furtively occupied by small stuffed animals, Williams conjures a pared-down winter panorama. Modeled after Edouard Castres’s sweeping 1881 panorama L'Arrivée de l'armée de General Bourbaki, her transformation of a nondescript interior is equal parts natural history museum and tableau vivant. Wandering past the cliffs and ridges, peering into the glassy eyes of raccoons, weasels, and small fluffy dogs, we feel nothing if not supremely self-conscious actors in an epic drama to which we have been given only half the script. The tone is hard to pin down. It shifts continually from romantic to comic and back again, and while the illusion of an alternate reality is too fragmented to deceive, Williams has chosen her scenery and props with care. Crossing and recrossing the frontier between nature and artifice, the territory she maps out is endlessly contested, never secured.