New York

Donna Dennis

Holly Solomon Gallery

Four new constructions by Donna Dennis round out the facades of her earlier Hotel series. Two are based on subway stations, two on cottages. As before, they are scaled to be a little taller than the average person, but now they are finished on the sides, and sometimes back, as well, in loving detail.

A box on the far wall behind a cottage provided a steady chirp of crickets. This particular cottage’s usual gallery lighting was augmented with three blue spotlights. Reconstruction from a photograph of a Maine bungalow, it was mounted on cinderblocks, and white clapboard is simulated by pencil lines drawn on its plywood, painted everywhere except immediately around the lines. A front door and shaded window are dimly visible through the screened front porch. The roof’s apex was ornamented by an empty lightbulb socket flanked by a fan louvre.

Meanwhile, the other cottage was given a touch of sun with a single yellow spotlight. A Farm Service Administration photograph was the model for this structure, painted with that greenish white usually arrived at by whitewash. The house has two inner chambers: screened porch with door, and, inside the porch, another door leading to the house’s tiny interior, on whose far wall a curtained window leaked in a little light. The screen door was fastened shut; obviously the house wasn’t meant to be squeezed into and explored. The fluorescent lights and mirrors of her earlier facades maintained the illusion of an interior The cottage is a step further along the road to accessible space, but it maintained its distance from the viewer by its less than life-size scale.

Dennis’ two models taken from the MTA are rigorous in their detail. One is based on the platform linking the upper and lower rails for the Sixth and Eighth Avenue trains at the West Fourth Street station, with the “up” staircase on one side and the “down” on the other. The upward stairs are gated in front; of the three dingy lightbulbs on the vaguely Greek entablature, only the right-hand one is lit. A yellow and silver paint job, complete with realistic splatters, is set off by the blue pillars on either side of the ascent. The other side is ungated, and briefly descends to a round-holed grate lit from beneath.

The fourth piece is not, strictly speaking, an entrance, but rather a place one studies during interminable waits for never-present trains. A wall and four columns, it’s based on the capitals and columns found at choice locations such as the Lexington and 51st Street stop, and the one at Broadway and 50th Street.

Crickets fit right in with these emissaries from a world apart from Red Grooms’ bouncy light-suffused Woolworth Building and subway car. Odd-angled exchanges between mirrored pyramids and their contact wallpaper reflections were Dennis’ predecessors for these later pieces wrapping architecture around inaccessible space. Her maquettes, which she makes as drawings for the large models, are too far below the scale of entry to involve the viewer in the same way.

A number of shows this season have been working with a sense of displaced perception. Ordinary images—from Denise Greene’s paintings to Nancy Wilson Kitchel’s desks—have been charged with intense vision of perspective and place. Such astute exteriorization of an interior sense of proportion is what makes Dennis’ architecture so intense.

Barbara Baracks