Mowry Baden

Galerie Christiane Chassay

Mowry Baden’s perfunctory gadgets, pseudo-mechanisms, and constructed environments playfully investigate the phenomenology of perception. While Baden’s earlier works such as I Walk the Line, 1968, and Adelbert’s Bet, 1971, owed a large debt to Frederick Kiesler’s Endless House, 1960, and Robert Morris’ space-transforming sculptures and installations, by the ’90’s Baden was constructing elaborately mechanistic works with multiple parts. The pseudoindustrial Dromedary Mezzanine, 1991, consisted of a viewing platform on wheels, from which one could see a series of miniature tents filled with packaged objects. Turning a crank set in motion a giant wheel made up of numerous tiny wheels that invited the viewer to investigate its parameters.

Offering a somewhat different experience of the body, Cheap Sleeps Columbine, 1994—a canopy made of mattresses beneath which lay a single mattress decorated with columbine-leaf motifs—looked as if it were floating in space because of the mirror placed beneath the construction. I Can See the Whole Room, 1994, a kind of bricoleur’s version of Sensurround, consisted of a bed poised on a metal bowl. Lying down on this bed and gazing through a thin panel of partially reflective, half-silvered Plexiglas installed just above one’s head allowed one to gaze simultaneously at the ceiling and reflections of the exhibition space. As the bed rocked back and forth, fragments of the surrounding environment slid past and reappeared intermittently, creating a curious correspondence between one’s own movement and the physical environment. It was a bit like being in a boat bobbing on the sea. Broken Dreams, 1995, consisted of a mattress divided into two parts set on a metal platform composed of welded honeycomb structures and rectilinear supports. The subtle interaction among the various parts of this piece evoked the process through which unconscious thought patterns are organized into rational ones. Baden’s sculptures are not meditations on being but mechanically innovative absurdities that investigate the body’s relationship to space and time.

John K. Grande