Critics’ Picks

Mario Garcia Torres, Je ne sais si c’en est la cause (I do not know if it is the cause) (detail), 2009, fifty-nine 35-mm slides and sound on vinyl record, dimensions variable.

Washington, DC

Cyprien Gaillard and Mario Garcia Torres

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Independence Avenue at Seventh Street, SW
November 10–March 27, 2011

From spiraling shots of urban blight in Kiev to the Caribbean jungle nibbling at an erstwhile grand hotel, the dystopic landscapes of Cyprien Gaillard and Mario Garcia Torres free-fall into decay. Both artists catch modernist utopian architecture in not only a tumble from above (a “falling into ruin”) but also an upward creeping from below––the future gnawing at its past.

Segmented into three filmic parts (not unlike the three segments in his Polaroid “Geographical Analogies,” 2006–2009, exhibited alongside) Gaillard’s Desniansky Raion, 2007, reflects on architectural facades and their slump into dust. Escorted by Koudlam’s throbbing, electric sound track, a procession of Saint Petersburg youths morphs into a street fight: A mass of red T-shirts meet white as if in a rote reenactment of Russian revolutionary history. After a brief tussle, the fighters disperse, give chase, and then wander away aimlessly––as disengaged from utopian struggles as the wan housing projects surrounding them. Next: Paris, where an electric sound and light performance frenetically punches light onto the facade of a hulking edifice moments before––and as if in compensatory disavowal of––its spectacular destruction. Then to Kiev: circling more architectural monoliths, more brittle fortress facades.

In Garcia Torres’s slide-show video, history also slides off walls. In this case, it peels off the facade of Saint Croix’s Grapetree Bay Hotel, where the artist is scraping through the jungle for the moth-eaten remnants of an early Daniel Buren mosaic. While contemporary color photographs of the hotel cycle on one wall, a black-and-white photograph from the resort’s heyday repeats impotently on the other: The slide carousel advances, clicks, only to sputter forth an identical image of stilled time. It was “a foundational time,” Garcia Torres comments, reciting the well-worn metaphor of edifices as substructures for new socioeconomic dispensations—except that here the foundation, like the building’s broken framework, has turned in on itself, free-falling into the earth.