New York

Montien Boonma

Deitch Projects

Smell is thought to be our most associative sense—an instant trigger of memories, a conduit for delivering nuanced and complex meaning directly to our animal selves. But even in installation-based art, the richly evocative power of smell is usually ignored. Montien Boonma’s recent show, a sculptural environment whose main ingredients were medicinal herbs from the traditional Asian pharmacopoeia, was a pungent exception. Employing metaphors of cleansing and curing, Boonma’s installation proposed to offer sensory sanctuary, a kind of aromatherapy for the visually overstimulated. Exceptional, too, was the fact that, by appealing so directly to sensuous experience, Boonma was able to engage a critically minded art public in an unironic commentary on spiritual health.

The installation, called House of Hope, 1997, announced its presence before one entered the gallery. A palpable scent hung in

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