Critics’ Picks

View of “Markus Schinwald,” 2010.

New York

Markus Schinwald

Yvon Lambert New York
550 West 21st Street
January 14–February 20

Markus Schinwald’s first solo exhibition in New York is subtle yet emphatic in its attempt to induce a state of unease in the viewer. An installation featuring large white pillars that cross the gallery space in orderly lines and angles, for instance, appears relatively benign until visitors are forced to step over and around the exhibition itself. Through the process of encountering and navigating these structures, both their decisive impact and an awareness of one’s own body become clear. Such works seem to progress naturally from Schinwald’s previous engagement with these themes in films and performances, which focus on participants who interact awkwardly with their surroundings and one another.

This sense of discomfort is increased by a number of oil portraits that seem at first to be antiquated and unremarkable depictions of staid, anonymous sitters. The works are, in fact, found canvases appropriated and manipulated by Schinwald. Only on close examination does the significance of this practice become clear: The visage of each subject has been modified by the addition of ambiguous bandages or prosthetic devices. These alterations indisputably conceal, restrain, and obscure their subjects, yet each of the men and women appears acutely disaffected. The artist eschews explanation of the meaning or purpose of these additions by giving only first names, such as Adam and Carola, as titles, leaving the viewer to interpret whether their jarring appearances might be the result of pleasure or of pain. As in Schinwald’s installation, the resulting contrast between the impact of the uncanny and these subjects’ impassivity to it invites the viewer to identify with them, leaving a marked sense of anxiety.