New York

Lydia Schouten

Julie Saul Gallery

Lydia Schouten’s debut exhibition in New York (she’s Dutch and has exhibited for years throughout Europe) was a single installation originally created in 1990 for a European gallery. The installation, Celebrating My 40th Birthday Alone at the Blue Hotel Room, 1990–93, featured a latex cast of the artist’s face tucked into a luminous-green plastic bed, surrounded by TV-generated images of killers and their victims. These images were framed on the walls, with texts taken from personal ads—such as “A Younger Man Seeks Older Woman . . .”—superimposed over them. The victims were visible on small underlit round tables with diaphanous skirts. On a night table on either side of the bed, Schouten had printed tales of violent crime. It was a busy, text-driven installation, but despite the wealth of reading material, the image of the glowing bed and luminous tables lingered long afterwards, making you feel you had participated in a dream.

Finally though, the work seemed too pat: a tourist’s nightmare of big-city life. So what’s new? Certainly all the personals, the synthetic bedspreads and wigs, the fluorescent lighting are the stuff of bad dreams, but also of other artists: Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Larry Clark.

Only in the application of classic Surrealist imagery—the floating bed, the disembodied head, the gauzy, ghostlike tables—to an otherwise quotidian installation of “found” text and photographed television images is this work truly innovative. These touches bring a European sensibility to an otherwise all-too-familiar piece. Schouten may be a tourist here, but she comes from a rich and interesting background, and even at her most “American” she retains her accent.

Justin Spring