Critics’ Picks

View of “Die Hexe,” 2015.

View of “Die Hexe,” 2015.

New York

Alex Da Corte

Luxembourg & Dayan | New York
64 East 77th Street
February 26–April 11, 2015

If the witch’s hovel in Pumpkinhead were a suite in a Collins Avenue boutique hotel during Art Basel Miami Beach, that might give some sense of the flavorings Alex Da Corte has injected into his ambitious and garishly stunning three-story installation “Die Hexe.” Da Corte throws into question what it means to feel fear in its multitudes: fear of mirrors, fear of old ladies, fear of death, fear of life after death, fear of mint Listerine, fear of homosexual men, fear of Miami, fear of appropriation art, or as R. W. Fassbinder so aptly put it in his film title, Fear of Fear.

The scripted journey begins downstairs, the first chamber one of muted grunginess, illumined by lo-fi psychedelic black light. Candied apples are on the mantle—razor blades included, I hope. A closed door offers an eye-level view of a Robert Gober drain, which functions as a peephole into $1 Store Kusama, the first of a series of inspirational mood/concept works by Mike Kelley, Bjarne Melgaard, and Haim Steinbach—father figures all. These artists adumbrate the spells that the sorceress intones: trash culture and Home Depot shopaholism; outsiderness as abjection and glamour, sexual lure and vicious degradation; a DMT palette that might electroshock the Acid Queen. Each is placed in an individual room, though the rivulets of semiotic blood flow fresh throughout all the galleries for the discerning spectator.

The best room is the last, a bathroom/spa/morgue in mint green, likewise scented, and violently fluorescent-white flicker-flicker lit. It’s clean and bright, fresh and unnerving, with little details cuing the enveloping hysteria, viz., the moldings are out of joint. The top floor promises rebirth; hell is downstairs. One of three morgue drawers has been slid open, so one can discover that the body has dissolved and gone down the drain. Maybe “Die Hexe” recapitulates Dante’s Commedia, an ascent from the filth of hell to the pristine clarity of heaven? Except the absolute hell might be not at the bottom in the dark but rather in the Room at the Top.