New York

Rita McBride

Michael Klein Gallery

Le Corbusier conceived of his Villa Savoye as a house “in the air,” as “no more than a series of views choreographed by the visitor, the way a filmmaker effects the montage of the film.” With her recent installation, Backsliding, sideslipping, one Great Leap and the ‘forbidden’, 1994, Rita McBride took him at his word, creating her own, almost literal, version of this Modernist vision of architectural utopia.

McBride’s scale model of the Villa’s ground floor—wood covered with vinyl tile—presented an open, schematic plan, topped by truncated pilotis (those skinny columns Le Corbusier adored) that pointed ineffectually at the ceiling. Though sparely decorated, the space was adorned with a few domestic elements, such as a worn poona mat and a potted plant (made of glass) on a hall stand. At the bottom of the Concrete Ramp, 1994, stood a cast-aluminum structure, Mid-rise Automobile Parking Structure, 1994, a multilevel affair in back of the villa, placed where Le Corbusier had planned for a simple carport. McBride’s sensibility consists of appropriating Modernist tropes only to wink at their charms. Though the pristine character and glass appurtenances of this installation vaguely echoed the work of Sherrie Levine, McBride appeared to be aiming at something quirkier and less austere than cultural reference, working a strain of independent, at times even surreal, associations.

Whisking Le Corbusier’s villa out of France and setting it in SoHo, McBride displaced the very space of early Modernism to fill it with her own works, which undercut the idealities of the Modernist project. The plant and garage, for example, are established images from her earlier work which have something of the souvenir about them; they refer, respectively, to time spent in Murano, Italy (where the glass objects were manufactured) and Los Angeles. In Two Sets of Three Hunchbacks and the Other, 1994, the seven stooped bronze figurines (with their wickedly goofy faces) twisted along the floor like dwarfish interlopers from a Disney cartoon. Subjecting one of the columns to a similar animation, McBride planted a protruding hole on its classic “brow” in the form of a small polyurethane object entitled Caught Looking, 1994.

The sense of continual displacement that informed each of McBride’s works, and by extension the installation as a whole, was given its most concrete form in the gentle traces of wear on the tile floor (a work entitled Still No Fixed Address with Blue and Green, 1994) that, like Richard Artschwager’s blps, resonated with an elusive, but particular meaning. Having accepted Le Corbusier’s invitation to view the space of the villa as mutable, McBride reciprocated by offering her own work for slicing, splicing, and montage.

Ingrid Schaffner