A. P. Gorny

Beaver College Art Gallery

A. P. Gorny opened this show with an extended performance that served as a frame for his highly textured conflation of event and image, one composed of layers of art-historical, religious, and deeply personal iconographies. “If You Only Knew” had an academic beginning: an artist’s conversation in a lecture hall on the college campus, which came to an abrupt halt when a drummer beckoned Gorny out of the building and down a long hill to the exhibition site. The audience followed. Outside of the gallery, a few of Gorny’s students fed a bright fire from a pile of his drawings. The light and warmth drew everyone together, underlining the power of ritual that much of the installation addressed. The artist himself was positioned behind a fake wall in the gallery, chopping wooden logs to the tune of a Chopin sonata played by a drummer and a violinist hidden with him behind the wall. The hidden source and pulsating rhythm of the music recalled Vito Acconci’s Seedbed, 1972, and drew the crowd inside. (It was not until the gallery had emptied that Gorny completed his performance by sawing his way through the fake wall.) Though he remained out of sight throughout the performance, Gorny was very much in control.

The audience was forced to form a line close to the far wall to avoid a large oval of coal ash covering much of the floor, engraved with the word NON, a direct (but arcane) reference to Marcel Duchamp’s etching that bears the same inscription. Answered by the word OUI burned into three gold-painted tables hanging from the opposite side of the room, the dialogue also indirectly referred to Yves Klein’s fire paintings. (Gorny recently presented an installation/performance in which he reenacted Klein’s The Painter of Space Launches Himself into the Void, 1960, and Anthropometries of the Blue Age, 1960.)

Facing the far wall, the viewer was met by a series of ten computer-generated images of bouquets, which documented the last twenty years—flowers the artist had sent to objects of his affection or that marked the occasion of earlier exhibitions (perhaps identifying the artist himself as the one, true object of his desire). Close up, the 2,000 hand-applied rhinestones that were glued to the surface of these images became visible. Peering through holes in six of the works revealed nude images of the artist, upside-down and in various stages of arousal, marking the exhibition’s most indulgent moment.

A black hole penetrated a third wall, forming the entrance to a more private chamber. Inside, a random pattern of impressions of dice covered the gold walls, which reflected the light of a funky but impressive low-tech altar made from three cast-iron burners from which flames rose against the steam of dry ice. Above the flames, in a double cupola, drawings of a daisy chain created from male figures were reflected in the water below. Here, Gorny mingled the sacred with the profane, challenging the meaning of both.

Viewing the exhibition at a later date, one felt the silence surrounding the objects, remnants of the moment that had passed. In keeping with Klein’s notion that pictures are merely the ashes of art, the central enigma of this discourse on desire had been given its fullest voice by the action of the artist in the presence of his audience.

Eileen Neff