Critics’ Picks

Roger Andersson, Down on Your Knees (detail), 2004.

New York

“Cleanliness”

Sara Meltzer Gallery
525-531 West 26th Street
June 24–July 30

Cleanliness is one of those seemingly benign concepts that are actually kind of scary—it’s only a few short steps from “godliness,” after all, into the realm of obsessive-compulsive disorder and eugenics. This group show touches lightly on these extreme associations, offering works that tug the central concept in a variety of directions. With Down on Your Knees, 1999—a porcelain commode covered with Delftware-like images in blue glaze—Roger Andersson has managed to create a toilet you actually want to stick your head down. Orit Raff’s photographs of soiled rubber gloves read like crime-scene evidence, while Richard Caldicott’s photographs transform Tupperware containers into abstract color fields. There’s even a late Duchamp print, Renvoi Miriorique, 1964, with a little image of the urinal/fountain. And a lone Warhol Brillo Box, 1968, takes on a new life in this context. Few of the artists here would say that their work is “about” cleanliness, but the show makes the notion almost as aesthetically viable as, say, chance, the abject, or the simulacrum: an idea that can be unpacked in a whole range of smart and unsettling ways.