Critics’ Picks

Oto Gillen, Times Square, August 2, 2017, 2019, dye sublimation on aluminum, wood, 33 3/4 x 49 1/2 x 1 1/4".


Oto Gillen

150 Manufacturing St Suite 201
April 10–May 25, 2019

The relationship one has with one’s hometown can be complicated and meaningful, raising questions about individual and collective identities. In his latest exhibition, “Compass Rose,” Oto Gillen demonstrates the same keen understanding of the significance of place and origin that has informed his shows since 2014. A lifelong New Yorker, the artist has made works that can be interpreted as odes to his city (the most prominent example being New York, 2015-17, featured in the 2017 Whitney Biennial).

This exhibition brings together four photographs taken in 2017 (all printed in 2019) at different locations in Manhattan. Each work occupies its own wall in the gallery; the arrangement is intended to recall the four cardinal points of a compass, thereby placing the viewer at the pictures’ crossroads. In describing Times Square, August 2, 2017, Gillen highlights this motif by referring to the famous site as “the crossroads of the world.” Yet the images are distinct from his past works in their level of abstraction; while one can decipher in the aforementioned photograph the large screens and colorful lights that brighten the midtown tourist attraction, the picture more immediately registers as a large, floating soap bubble, in which the city lights are refracted. The other photographs also portray water in varying states: flowing water, drops of rain, and collected pools. This removal of picture from place seems indicative of Gillen’s own sense of dissociation from the city in 2017, a year when many New Yorkers were weathering the aftermath of the 2016 election. The show provides only glimpses of forms and light, a hazy disorientation.