Critics’ Picks

View of “Hypocrisy Ladders,” 2014.

View of “Hypocrisy Ladders,” 2014.

New York

Stefan Tcherepnin

Real Fine Arts
November 1–December 7, 2014

Two sculptural creatures both resembling the Cookie Monster, one in deep purple and the other avocado green, are the focus of Stefan Tcherepnin’s latest show, while a third version of the character in its traditional azure lies flattened in the shape of a kidney on the floor. Above them hang inverted bundles of mulberry branches, each lit from within by a single lightbulb that casts dramatic shadows on the walls and large, scrim-like partition dividing the gallery. The lighting along with the flagrant absurdity of the figures recalls the campy films of Mike and George Kuchar. Inside the gallery’s storage room, an ad hoc theater displays the video Learning Movie, 2014, depicting the simulacral Muppets roaming (and sometimes rowing) through wild, unpopulated landscapes.

Tcherepnin is known for his collaborative sound art, and one wonders whether this solo show was so conspicuously titled “Hypocrisy Ladders” as a comment on the authenticity of single authorship and value of works in the round, or if the phrase’s garishness merely reflects that of the exhibition’s somewhat hermetic content. Beside a random potted cactus at the darkened entrance, one encounters a lone ink drawing on the wall, depicting forms that resemble the branching shadows in the gallery inside. Along with the moving light of traffic allowed in from the street, the emphasis on shadow play throughout the show brings to mind Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, a kind of protocinema. In a sense, this exhibition’s daring consists in a depthlessness akin to the scrim backdrop of such dramas, here a stage where evacuated characters perform the story of our own anxious psychology surrounding the experience of art objects.