New York

Steven Pippin

Gavin Brown's enterprise | 620 Greenwich Street

Coolly orbiting questions of a technological and existential nature, Steven Pippin’s recent exhibition “Terrestrial TV” charted paths from root to antenna, earth to world, and place to space. The show’s eponymous central installation consisted of an early ’70s color television mounted inside a spherical wooden frame, resting on a tripod-shaped pedestal—a fixture that would normally house a large globe. Instead of a three-dimensional representation, we were shown a flat video image of the earth as seen from space. It was a moving picture, the television itself hooked up to a mechanism that caused it to rotate in the opposite direction. This double-movement, clockwise and counterclockwise, confined within a frame, made the world itself seem somehow frozen in time and space.

The installation was twinned with Model Universe, 1997, an electronic model of the planetary system, placed on a cylinder-shaped pedestal in an adjacent room in the gallery. Here, like post–cold war Galileos, we watched as our apparently insignificant dot of a world moved around the sun (itself altered into a little TV set). In relation to the other planets, Earth rotated more slowly than some, more quickly than others. Two “world pictures,” then, operating in a kind of force field, showed us the broadcast scheme of things.

Up to now Pippin’s work has consisted primarily of photographs taken from within containers fashioned into cameras: bathtubs, wardrobes, or, as in his 1993 show at MoMA’s Project Room, train toilets. This latest exhibition also displayed Pippin’s earlier work in that vein: a series of shots of a washing machine introspectively recording its own innards, with little fuzzy glimpses of something (air, a person, a room?) beyond its limits. In this light, the new work is revealed to be not so much a departure from inner to outer, small to enormous, as a shifting of gears—from, perhaps, agitate to spin.

He is surely onto something here. And, in investigating the relation of the terrestrial to the universal, of the ideological to the viewfinder itself, Pippin opens up new—satellitic, telescopic, disenchanting—vistas. But the broader question of whether we might be able to grasp what this aperture reveals may depend on whether Pippin, or we, can ever really get the world picture that persistently, and properly, evades us.

Nico Israel