Critics’ Picks

Rachel Mason, Holy Empire of The Jaw, 2009, mixed media, dimensions variable.

New York

“In Practice”

44-19 Purves Street
January 11–March 22

In this series of installations commissioned for the institution’s basement space, artists offer disparate interpretations of site specificity. Becket Bowes invites visitors to linger in the nooks of a narrow, tunnel-like hallway in Social Isolate Club (all works 2009) to contemplate thematically linked sculptures and read neatly bound books with fake titles like Identity Tactics Vol. 1.

Instead of paring down the art to accentuate the surrounding space, Rachel Mason transforms her designated area into a Hapsburg-era foyer, covering the walls and ceiling with heavy red fabrics, gold-tasseled curtains, and old-fashioned candelabras. In this otherworldly cavern, she integrates the dental molds of friends into portrait sculptures, such as Matthew Spiegelman (the World), in which Spiegelman’s cast teeth are embedded in a glowing globe. Samara Golden also playfully converts a cavelike space into a self-contained world in Yes no party. Through a clever series of mirrors and an abundance of colorful, gaudy 1980s party paraphernalia, including 3-D cardboard boom boxes, she invites viewers to hang out and watch their silhouettes projected and pulsating in strobe effect.

While artists such as Peter Simensky, Carey Ascenzo, and Amy Patton struggle to reinvent site specificity, Wojciech Gilewicz defies its logic entirely in his deadpan installations—painted imitations of everyday surfaces, intended to go unnoticed in public space. In the video documentation of his project, Gilewicz nonchalantly installs the work in broad daylight, thereby performing the slight visual shifts between the trash on the surface of a garbage can and its painted replica, between a construction panel and its crafted double, and drawing attention to the way art can undermine even its own subversive rhetoric to make site both more and less noticeable.