Critics’ Picks

Untitled, 2004.

Untitled, 2004.

New York

Harrell Fletcher

Christine Burgin Gallery
243 West 18th Street
April 30–June 4, 2004

Tracking down Harrell Fletcher’s contribution to the Whitney Biennial—several collaborative mini-exhibits appearing in, among other places, a West Village pharmacy, a Queens furniture market, and an Astoria senior citizens’ center—is more arduous than visiting a single gallery. But with one stop at Christine Burgin you get a range of projects that demonstrate Fletcher’s antielitist, antiexclusionary ethos. A 'zinelike handout asks, “What if the art world (and the world in general) were based on a socialist system instead of a capitalist one? What if the goals we were shooting for were sharing, equality, and mutual support, instead of competition, rarification, and celebrity?” Backing this up are offerings like found snapshots blown up and modified with paint; “unofficial” posters for the Biennial by children and adults not included in the show; rolls of film he’s shot but hasn’t developed; and a video in which faceless narrators tell the stories behind their scars. Fletcher—“unsullied” because of his resistance to making salable objects but now showing in New York because “I want to be sullied”—takes a stance that’s tricky to maintain. Showing collaborative work under his own name, he undercuts his populist agenda. But part of his project seems to be to recuperate the notion of sincerity itself, and in the end you believe that his heart is in the right place. For Fletcher, everyone has a story, an opinion, and an aesthetic, and his work serves as a conduit that brings these things to light, and to life.