Critics’ Picks

View of “LAT. 41° 7’ N., LONG. 72° 19’ W,” 2013.

View of “LAT. 41° 7’ N., LONG. 72° 19’ W,” 2013.

East Marion

“LAT. 41° 7’ N., LONG. 72° 19’ W”

Martos Gallery | East Marion
12395 Main Rd
July 13–September 2, 2013

Clairvoyantly placed at the driveway to a white-washed clapboard house in East Marion, New York, is Jason Metcalf’s Orient Focus People, 2013, a historic sign detailing the heritage of a completely fictional community “native” to the region. In its wily deception, the work acts as an entrée to Bob Nickas’s annual summer exhibition, which craftily points to the ways architecture can spin narratives. Many of the artworks within the rambling home murmur at the spiels associated with its various rooms: Presiding in the corner of a toddler’s room is a portrait of an owl by Bill Adams with wide, prescient eyes. Across the way are two geriatric walkers by Isa Genzken; a ragdoll is draped lifelessly over one’s metal frame, the work’s trippy lack of compos mentis especially astute amid the child’s toys. Downstairs, a lush, shimmery painting by Jacqueline Humphries peacocks within the living room. In the dining room, the house’s central table has been replaced by Untitled, 2011, a massive black “rock” by John Miller, which effectively blocks out the room’s defined function.

Nickas’s curation indulges in pleasures of the home while casting a skeptical eye on the way domestic space can act as an iron chassis for collective stories. Indeed, though site-specificity is key to Nickas’s project, a number of artworks by the sixty-six artists in this show are at odds with their location. A silver ladder by Andy Cross stands in the side yard, vainly inviting one to climb into the sky. Peter Coffin has fastened colorful hands onto the stubs of branches, each pointing to nothingness. In the surrounding woods, Jules de Balincourt’s Total Surrender, 2013, consists of three life-size figures retreating from the property. If anxieties about the way institutions enforce lifestyle are at play here, then nothing is more salient than a wonderful Cady Noland work, which sits on the mantle of the house’s fireplace. The story of this artist, who, disabused with the art market (and by consequence collectors), famously gave up making art, gives this happy home quite the chill.