Critics’ Picks

View of “Landscapes of Quarantine,” 2010. Right: Richard Mosse, Quick, 2010.

View of “Landscapes of Quarantine,” 2010. Right: Richard Mosse, Quick, 2010.

New York

“Landscapes of Quarantine”

Storefront for Art and Architecture
97 Kenmare Street
July 25, 2013–April 24, 2010

The famous facade of the Storefront for Art and Architecture, designed in 1993 by Vito Acconci and Steven Holl, literally opens onto Kenmare Street and therefore defies the very premise of a space that is “kept out of sight,” as one panel in this exhibition describes the logic of quarantine. The pierced and cantilevered frontage of the nonprofit seems, then, an odd site for a reflection on the various spatial iterations of confinement. And yet, in a variety of media and thematic approaches, this small show evokes––by turns solemnly and humorously––the prevalence of a practice that is by definition about being out of view.

Indeed, quarantine is as much a metaphorical trope as it is an actual procedure, and the exhibition pays more than lip service to the concept’s stubborn unrepresentability. Richard Mosse’s video Quick, 2010, alludes precisely to quarantine’s resistance to empirical measurement, while Brian Slocum’s installation transforms the (sliced and levered) facade into a sample of quarantine’s effects by using a “prosthetic tarp.” Joe Alterio’s series of works on paper, depicting a community’s sequestering of a potentially harmful machine, uses a more traditional medium to address ineffable contemporary anxieties. Mimi Lien’s diminutive dioramas, re-creating scenes frozen in time and stripped of human presence, evoke the eerie temporal abeyance of quarantined spaces.

Perhaps the most incisive aspect of the exhibition is its refusal to serve up some facile verdict on the notion of quarantine and its political or philosophical ramifications. Whether a reactionary sealing of borders to those in need, or a necessary prophylaxis against a disease’s spread; whether a literary metaphor, or a more insidious concealment of actual nuclear waste; the fraught nature of quarantine emerges here in all its ambivalence––material, metaphysical, and spatial.