Critics’ Picks

Öyvind Fahlström, The Little General (Pinball Machine), 1967–68, Plexiglass, metal, magnets, styrofoam, lead keels, water, oil on photopaper, vinyl, 3’ 4” x 9’ 2” x 18’.


“Reflections from Damaged Life”

Raven Row
56 Artillery Lane
September 26–December 15

Pierre Huyghe’s L’Expédition scintillante (The Sparkling Expedition), 2002, consists of a hovering light box with a stage below and emits a gauzy haze that fluctuates to the wafting tune of Erik Satie’s piano composition Gymnopédies, 1888. It is the one work in this exhibition that best approximates a drug-induced sense of time that drifts away. Curated by art historian Lars Bang Larsen, the exhibition “Reflections from Damaged Life” offers an alternate view into the psychedelic, rather than the common depiction of substance abuse as kaleidoscopic. From the still-active 1970s French progressive rock music of Magma to the first Latin American psychedelic magazine, Lo Inadvertido (The Inattentiveness), 1969, by Marta Minujín and Guillermo Beilinson, Larsen’s show presents a broader philosophical reflection on chemical use and its greater history.

One high point is Öyvind Fahlström’s The Little General (Pinball Machine), 1967–68, which consists of a myriad of collaged figures from politics and culture—such as a baby, a tiger, a noseless Charles de Gaulle and Lyndon B. Johnson, and even Moshe Dayan morphing into a tiger-skin rug—floating in Plexiglas boxes above a pool of water, in which a brain, a fetus, and G.I. Joe toys have sunk to the bottom. In this floating world, the subtle hallucinogenic effect is subjugated by the overt political pinball of the artist’s take on agitprop. Larsen sees the history of psychedelic drug use as a post–World War II phenomenon, mostly defined by the Vietnam conflict, described as “a way of fighting fire with acid and pitting one kind of delirium against another.” It is this hallucinogenic delirium and its sensation of suspension—as in the qualities of Fahlström’s The Little General—that for Larsen act as resistance to the culture of commodification in the world today.