New York

Eva Andrée Laramée

John Gibson Gallery

In her recent work, Eve Andrée Laramée continues to follow her interest in the estrangement between cultural practice and scientific process. From our distorted perceptions of the differences between them, she draws shared properties and principles. Using salt, copper, electro-magnetic fields, and plants, she has created work which, in its final form, is more than the sum of her active interventions.

Laramée’s laboratory of controls and variables reflects an imaginative empiricism that allows us to envision and embrace indeterminate results. In this show, entitled “Instruments & Apparatus,” Laramée pursued a long-standing fascination with the mutability of organic and inorganic materials while expanding her investigation to include the mysterious methods of scientific inquiry. Vials, flasks, stands, slides, wires, and other laboratory paraphernalia shared space with more evocative, subjective components and collections. Through Laramée’s incisiveness, the processes of cultural production and scientific inquiry come to share a creative kinship—a mutual engagement in a process without predictable conclusions.

Despite a generous diversity of materials, collectibles, and processes, each piece negotiated the emotional and the empirical, accepting them as interdependent. She collected daydreams as they fell from the branches of the hemlock tree outside the laboratory, 1992, consisted of two beakers on a small, double-shelved, steel table. On the top, the vessel was filled with water and plants that had acquired a deep amber color—a fluid representing daydreams. The beaker on the bottom shelf contained gray ashes—the lifeless residue of nightmares. Scientific props were used to contain an entirely imagined world—the immateriality of the subconscious, indisputably evident in the collected specimens. The mysteries of alchemy and the methods of science were partners in this quiet mise-en-scène.

In In the Shadow of the Idol, 1992–93, Laramée paid wry homage to Joseph Beuys with a trinity of objects placed in a corner. In the center, a magnetized iron rod and glass bowl sat on a wooden chair draped with transparent fabric, the bowl filled with a gray sludge—the results (reportedly) of blending a Beuys multiple in a food processor with beeswax and olive oil. On the floor to the left a rough plaster bowl contained ashes. To the right, fabric covered an almost indistinguishable heap of leaves. In this way, the artist presented an ironic shrine to the aggressive, idiosyncratic materiality of Beuys’ work.

Whether stringing 26 acorns along the wall on chevrons of copper wire or assembling an improbable collection of found and concocted instruments, Laramée reminds us that art and science are conjoined by the dynamics of collection, observation, and experimentation. Requiem for a Rose-colored Fluid, 1993, at once conveyed despondency and brilliant hope. A small, steel box was filled with dried, red roses, supporting an open book of cast iron with the words “GUESS/WORK” as the sole text. Wonder and guesswork—rather than complete despair—illuminated Laramée’s poetics of scientific and esthetic research.

Patricia C. Phillips