Critics’ Picks

Jon Rafman, Poor Magic, 2017, mixed media, video, dimensions variable.

New York

“Dream Machines”

James Cohan Gallery | Chelsea
533 West 26th Street
June 24 - July 28

In this group exhibition, dreams are a vehicle into the psychological and corporeal recesses of the self. Take Jon Rafman’s Poor Magic, 2017, in which viewers sit inside a dysmorphic egg-shaped seat to watch a video that is an exercise in body horror: CGI figures hurl themselves at a wall repeatedly before we are taken on an endoscopic journey into various orifices. As the video progresses along the surfaces of slick pink innards, a voice whispers bleak phrases on the distinction between dreaming and waking life: “If you can’t sleep at night it means you’re in someone else’s dream. . . . It feels like someone or something has entered our heads. It strolls through the recesses of our minds surveying our scars.”

In the same room, Fred Tomaselli’s Behind Your Eyes, 1992, presents a vascular portrait of a human figure—echoing Rafman’s fleshy explorations—situated in outer space, perhaps floating in an alternate universe. Mernet Larsen’s suite of twelve paintings, The Philosophers, 1984, consists of abstracted and color-blocked geometric forms, a turn away from the body to a Freudian playground of associative symbolism. Lee Mullican’s gray and blue acrylic sketches on magazine pages (Untitled, 1963) similarly convey the enigmatic process of translating subconscious desires into more legible terms. In these numinous works, Mullican leaves traces of the material world intact, with advertisements for radios, car parts, and other electronics peeking out behind his abstract embellishments. “Dream Machines” is fueled by the capacity of the imagination to produce visions both familiar and fantastic, as what constitutes reality is often much harder to see.