Critics’ Picks

View of “Unmanned Lander,” 2015.

View of “Unmanned Lander,” 2015.

New York

Hayley Silverman

197 Grand Street 2W
February 22–March 29, 2015

Noah’s ark, that proto–postapocalyptic time capsule, has manifested as a yellow wheelbarrow of varicolored resin sand dollars at the entrance to New York–based Hayley Silverman’s “Unmanned Lander”: Each transclucent cast inside contains a pair of coins or other mated monies (berries, pollen) for the times to come (Crude Currency, 2015). Meanwhile, the sculpture’s weathered frame appears to say this has been tried and has failed before. Throughout the show, utopia is in the shadow of the retrofuture: Witness Is terraforming reincarnation?, 2015 (with Emily Shinada), an octagon of inward-facing mirrors perched on a metal tripod, that resembles both a zoetrope and the Space Needle. Invoking three respective centuries of hope in new technology, the work’s interior reveals the hollow repetition at their heart—an infinite, abstracted desert, effected by some coldly glowing sand and a leaning-cowboy silhouette.

A weaving of a window with a half-drawn pull shade rests on top of a light box in Untitled (For Jo), 2015 (with Shinada). The work is dizzying with nested eras: The textile part, originally by the artist’s mother, evokes a 1970s nostalgia for nineteenth-century Arts and Crafts, with its domestic-pastoral, spooky simplicity. It feels like a museum piece, but with the box below it shining light not only through but all around, a futuristic coldness takes us from a present archive to, perhaps, the part of the spaceship where you go to feel like you’re back home.

Among other inspired chronocultures on display, the only one not from this year is Watering Hole, 2013, part of Silverman’s “Flood” series of figurines caught in soups of artificial vegetables. Set apart with the display insight that is the hallmark of this gallery, its tone diverges; nonetheless, a phrase the artist used when speaking of the series on the BBC describes its newer, strange companions: “the return of a lost cause.”