Critics’ Picks

View of “Marc Burns,” 2017

View of “Marc Burns,” 2017


Marc Burns

ARTSpace Hartford
555 Asylum Avenue
April 9–May 14, 2017

As its title, “WATERWOUNDWEIGHTWRAPPED,” suggests, this solo exhibition by artist and experimental composer Marc Burns is not afraid of size, structural collapse, or deviant methods of communication. Of the twelve works on view, five contain pools of water trapped in pockets of plastic sheeting, loosely arranged on the floor or suspended in midair with rope. While water threatens to spill at times, it invites play elsewhere. In WATERWEIGHT (all works 2017), for example, the viewer is invited to nudge a shoebox-size boat around a tub lined with cut-up paintings. The exhibition finds its footing in these meditations on water—a substrate that is sculptural, omnipresent, and bewilderingly capable of infusing inanimate objects with life.

In WEIGHT, a plastic tarp six feet above eye level cocoons a thirty-pound piece of lumber stewing in water. The tarp is folded to perform like a sandwich bag and sealed at the top with four pieces of red tape and nails; it holds the log, at least for now. Over time, some of the water will be absorbed by the wood, shifting its weight, while the rest will evaporate and condense into droplets, much like the system in Hans Haacke’s Condensation Cube, 1965.

In the theatrical installation WEIGHTWATER a set of unknown objects sits behind a large, semi-opaque plastic tarp. You can’t make out the scene at first, but there are three ways of gaining visual access: one, climb a ladder made of sticks and enter through a second-story window (which is clearly too precarious to attempt); two, operate a pulley system that reveals the full scene; or three, sit in a chair two feet from the tarp and stare through the plastic. If you choose the latter option, something may catch your eye: A pink, fuzzy orb in the distance changes colors, and its edges move as your eyes adjust and water; its sides shift, and its color changes again. And here it is: a show about the science of looking.