Critics’ Picks

Jessica Stockholder, Peer Out to See (detail), 2010, mixed media, dimensions variable.


Jessica Stockholder

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Calle de Santa Isabel, 52
July 14–February 28

The Reina Sofía’s light-flooded Palacio de Cristal, with its central dome and three side wings, couldn’t be further from the typical experience of viewing art in a white cube gallery. The architecture unfolds as an expansive space, imparting the feeling to visitors that they are at once inside and outside. Jessica Stockholder’s installation Peer Out to See, 2010, transforms this gallery into what might be called a traversable painting––even if there are several dominant sculptural aspects. Foremost among these is the slim sculpture reaching up to the glass ceiling. The work is made up of plastic objects such as garden chairs, children’s bathtubs, and plastic baskets––all spectacularly piled into a kind of frozen fountain (which is an amusing counterpart to the actual fountain located out in front of the museum). The vibrant pinks, oranges, and yellows of the piece’s lower segment give way, higher up, to gleaming white. This work is quite a dazzler. Yet the show overall functions as a whole that can be realized only by moving through multiple points of view.

Stockholder has installed a wooden footbridge-cum-pier leading into the palace. A sculptural element itself, the walkway affords a panoramic view of the installation, alowing visitors to see how the works coalesce into a cohesive whole. Many of the components feature a painterly use of color: A gray-green basin, for example, gets its color from a thick layer of duckweed harvested at a neighboring pond; and powdery orange-brown terra-cotta are dispersed throughout the installation, following the contours of the footbridge. Even the walkway is structured by large expanses of Color Field–like works. Thus emerges an imaginary painting that could be described as a choreography of the elements in the space, and the pun of the exhibition’s title becomes evident: The walkway is indeed a “pier out to sea,” the sea of one’s own imagination.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.