Critics’ Picks

Leandro Erlich, In the Shadow of the Pagoda, 2019, acrylic, metal, wood, pebble, Styrofoam, plastic, 30 x 18 x 20'6".

Leandro Erlich, In the Shadow of the Pagoda, 2019, acrylic, metal, wood, pebble, Styrofoam, plastic, 30 x 18 x 20'6".

Seoul

Leandro Erlich

Seoul Museum of Art
61, Deoksugung-gil, Jung-gu
December 17, 2019–March 31, 2020

In “Both Sides Now,” the Argentina-based artist Leandro Erlich presents deceptive installations that fuse and confuse fictional and real space, prompting us to question what we see versus what we believe. In the first room, which is evocative of the lobby of a cinema, with its scarlet walls and carpeting, hang thirteen oil paintings that borrow from the language of movie posters to reinterpret earlier work by the artist. Instead of faithfully titling the posters, however, Erlich has paired each image with a title of a different work by him, reflecting on how the act of naming frames and determines meaning (Coming Soon, 2019). For the new site-specific piece In the Shadow of the Pagoda, 2019, the artist has staged a thirteen-foot stone tower inside a simulated pool of water, employing the same architectural strategy used in Erlich’s Swimming Pool, 2004. The current work is inspired by the ancient Korean folktale “Muyeongtap,” which tells the story of the stonemason Asadal, who must leave home to construct Seokgatap Pagoda. His wife, Asanyeo, is promised that she’ll know that the tower is complete, and her husband is able to return, when she can see the pagoda’s shadow. After waiting to no avail, she despairs and drowns herself before Asadal arrives home. Depending on where visitors stand—inside or outside Erlich’s tower, looking up at it or down—they can realize the seemingly contradictory views that exist within the same reality. The couple’s tragedy symbolizes for the artist the epistemological limitations of perception, and it’s a keen reminder that sight is far from absolute, as it exists in relation to one’s ever-changing position, and, as ever, to one’s faith.

Translated from Korean by Hiji Nam.