Critics’ Picks

View of “GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction,” 2010.

New York

Mark Leckey

Gavin Brown's enterprise | 620 Greenwich Street
620 Greenwich Street
October 30–December 18, 2010

GreenScreenRefrigerator, the title work in Mark Leckey’s latest exhibition, is an ode to the hulking black mass of a Samsung refrigerator. In a rollicking twenty-minute lyric poem, Leckey addresses the Darth Vader of his kitchen: extolling it, berating it, philosophizing at it. Playing with the “greenscreen” in a series of vignettes, the stationary fridge wanders through cities, fields, and outer space on a spiritual quest for origins and answers. Leckey’s serenade to his muse, his “dark mirror,” is of a piece with his other extended dialogues with inanimate objects, especially the sculptures in his video March of the Big White Barbarians, 2005. But here Leckey dives beneath the appliance’s mute surface for a romp through its shiny insides.

“The infernal elephant then squeezes the coolant, torments it, humiliates it, into a high-pressure state,” the artist chants, tweaking the instruction manual into an eschatology of doom, one rife with Schopenhauerian resonances (“alone here, alone here in the dark . . .”) and Hegelian ones (“coolant escapes its outlines to become pure spirit . . .”). Leckey’s droll recitations of mechanical processes bind his existential musings (“becoming, becoming, becoming”) to a Duchampian template of sexualized mechanical processes and perpetual transformation (“becoming gas, becoming liquid, becoming vapor . . .”). In this sense, the video marries the erotically charged, anthropomorphic circuits of Duchamp’s Large Glass, 1915–23, with an epic narrative suggesting the transformation of matter to spirit (i.e., liquid to gas). Cycles of the sun and moon trace pathways of cryptic cosmologies, casting the appliance as a Delphic oracle to whom the artist supplicates himself, entreating: “Samsung, Samsung, Sammmmmsunnng . . . ”

Nearby, the actual refrigerator looks on, from beneath a swath of green screens while another sculpture and other works further document this encounter between the artist’s dry humor and the wet and icy underworld of refrigerator coolant.