New York

Arakawa

Dwan Gallery

Arakawa, at Dwan, has a fine flair for the diagram and for literal designation. His show announcement envelope, a pleasantly unlikely place,, provided a first hint of his interests. Under the word “mistake,” written in fairly large letters, was the statement, in smaller ones: “The letters in the above word have an average height of 5'6'' (5'2''–6'2'') and an average weight of 145 lbs. (110–190 lbs.).” The statement exploded another dimension into “mistake,” making it jump its visual role from text alone to text plus diagram.

The show’s largest piece, 35' x 7'6'' and 126 lbs., plays with designation in the same deadpan style. Many of its random grey dots are labeled “house,” “potato,” “star,” etc., in large, stenciled letters. Visual logic then suggests that the other dots, though unlabeled, must “be” things too. This is slightly eerie. Next, one notices that each of the giant letters which together spell the huge word “mistake” is made up of dozens of . . . grey dots. Is each dot “in fact” an object? Then, to boot, the letters of the large word mistake, a smaller stenciled statement explains, have exactly the same dimensions as the mistake diagrammed on the announcement envelope. It “is” that mistake. It is as if Arakawa is dramatizing the “mistakes” inherent in the process of designation itself.

Jean-Louis Bourgeois