Critics’ Picks

Leslie Hewitt, Untitled (Dreambook or Axis of the Ellipse), 2019, digital chromogenic print in wood frame, 52  x 62  x 7".

Leslie Hewitt, Untitled (Dreambook or Axis of the Ellipse), 2019, digital chromogenic print in wood frame, 52 x 62 x 7".

New York

Leslie Hewitt

Perrotin | New York
130 Orchard Street
September 11–October 26, 2019

Leslie Hewitt builds deftly upon her conceptual photographic practice in “Reading Room,” an exhibition featuring both a solo presentation in the main gallery and the artist’s reimagining of Perrotin’s in-house bookshop. Hewitt was inspired by the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem, which was founded by Lewis Michaux, a celebrated civil rights activist whose business—which opened in 1932 and lasted until 1974—doubled as a home for community gatherings, political discussions, and art. Her show includes pieces such as Riffs on Real Time (2 of 10), 2012–17, a photo that depicts Michaux inside his store; Forty-two, 2019, a computer-generated video that randomly selects and configures words from a data set related to Michaux’s shop, building concrete poetry with endless associative relations; and a collection of texts influential to Hewitt. The artist has also scheduled a series of collaborative events that will take place throughout October.

In the gallery, Hewitt’s photo-sculptures—pictures of still lifes resting inside heavy wooden frames that sit on the floor—contain elements and strategies that appear frequently in her work, such as a square sheet of elm balanced on a stack of books with their spines flipped away from the viewer, rebuffing our gaze; the layering of objects to create registers of opacity or access; and the repetition of symbols, in a minimalist, serialized arrangement, that evoke a desire for interpretation while refuting any explicit narrative.

Möbius strips materialize in several of the photographs, including Untitled (Awakened Even When Turned), 2019, where it takes the form of a metal sculpture, and Untitled (Dreambook or Axis of the Ellipse), 2019, in which it appears as a drawing and, rather obliquely, via the spines of two cleverly arranged books: Jean-Paul Sartre’s Black Orpheus (1948) and Henry Dumas’s story collection Ark of Bones (1974). These pieces in particular reflect the dual structure of “Reading Room,” a stunning extension of Hewitt’s incisive rephrasing of interpretive refusal and embrace.