Critics’ Picks

Quay Quinn Wolf, It’s For You As Much As It’s For Us (detail), 2018, funeral wreath, dimensions variable.

Quay Quinn Wolf, It’s For You As Much As It’s For Us (detail), 2018, funeral wreath, dimensions variable.

New York

Quay Quinn Wolf

Jack Barrett
173 Henry Street Ground floor
March 23–April 22, 2018

Do you ever think about the way we archive the human body after death? We wash and disinfect it and break down the rigor mortis. We suture the mouth shut and artificially aspirate the organs, filling the arteries and cavities with fluid to stem the tide of decay. Bodies that were so far apart in life come together in the ground.

When Quay Quinn Wolf was a child, his mother studied mortuary science. After-school conversations about formaldehyde and casket selection have been translated into six sculptural works that intimate the body in its absence. But here, flowers stand in for flesh. Fluid-filled IV tubing coils across the floor like rotary-telephone wire; a pink carnation is stuck in one end as if in the barrel of a gun (A Mother’s Love, all works 2018). On a nearby wall a funeral wreath rots over the duration of the show (It’s For You As Much As It’s For Us). Like makeup on a corpse, the sweet, floral scent from a hidden diffuser will inevitably acquiesce to its indolent fetor.

In the middle of the gallery, more carnations—red this time, for a lost lover—float facedown in a plastic jug of water placed upon a blazer lined with velvet, the same type used to line coffins (My Man’s Gone Now). Flowers are further interred as abstract smears of carnation and lily pigments on fabrics encased in plastic in a manner that suggests ironing boards (Selection No. 1–3). They lean on the walls propped on marble tiles like a kind of PVC cemetery. On rosy velvet, on lilac satin backlit with neon like a car underbody, and on a blue satin that echoes the bouquet’s ribbon. The show is spare, perhaps too spare, and the works feel very far apart. The room is restive rather than funerary. But like the absence of a loved one, all that empty space is so very loud.