New York

Corey McCorkle, Monument, 2013, HD-video projection, color, sound, 5 minutes 36 seconds.

Corey McCorkle, Monument, 2013, HD-video projection, color, sound, 5 minutes 36 seconds.

Corey McCorkle

Maccarone | 630 Greenwich Street

Corey McCorkle, Monument, 2013, HD-video projection, color, sound, 5 minutes 36 seconds.

“There’s a video of a blind horse named Zachary; it goes with the crevice piece.” Such was the entirety of the information provided by the attendant on my visit to Corey McCorkle’s recent exhibition at Maccarone; there was nothing in printed form bar a minimal checklist identifying the two works on display as, respectively, Monument and Crevice, both 2013. But while curt to the point of near absurdity, the official description was at least truthful. The darkened gallery was dominated by a five-and-a-half minute silent, color video of said horse, projected at cinematic scale on a freestanding wall. And this did indeed seem to, in some way, “go with” an uneven slit running the lengths of two adjacent walls at a height of about six feet, which admitted a narrow strip of white light.

Monument is consistent with McCorkle’s approach to the moving image in previous works such as Preah, 2005, a Cambodia-set portrait of a mystical white cow, and Bestiaire, 2007, a tour of a defunct zoo near Istanbul; in his hands, film and video become a medium akin to painting or sculpture in their refusal of sequence and focus on a single subject. While there is plenty of movement in Monument, and a succession of different compositions and camera angles, nothing happens as such, and the point at which the viewer starts or stops watching is more or less irrelevant. We watch from the far end of a dim corridor as Zachary gallops around a track; we peer at his liquid, sightless eyes from close quarters, as if waiting for him to speak. At one point, he paws the ground, almost as if to find his way; at another, he turns his head toward us slowly and steadily as if scanning a crowd for a familiar face. But finally there is nothing in his behavior that feels especially out of the ordinary.

While horses are, historically, among the most represented subjects in Western painting and sculpture, it’s hard to name many contemporary practitioners committed to keeping the tradition alive; the creatures’ very existence now feels vaguely anachronistic, at least to this city kid. So it’s unnerving to find oneself in such close and contemplative proximity to Zachary—possibly even more so because he cannot return our gaze. The relationship feels intrusive, perhaps even exploitative. And the tension between viewer and viewed is doubly strange insofar as it images gulfs—between sighted and sightless, human and animal, historical and contemporary—that may never be wholly bridged, cracks in meaning that can only ever be papered over in an inherently unstable fix.

Crevice too follows on from several of McCorkle’s earlier projects, and also hints at a precarious transcendence; for 2003’s Cutting (Office Baroque), for example, the artist sliced through a brick wall, making short work of the architectural here and now in an homage to Gordon Matta-Clark. Yet as critic Claire Gilman points out in a 2007 profile in Frieze, “McCorkle embraces a less aggressive model of site-specificity: one that aims not to destroy or undo but simply to acknowledge what it means to be situated in space.” And Crevice, slender and simple as it is, does prod us into a different relationship to the room in which we stand. The fractional glimpse it permits us of the outside world is, on close inspection, not even that—all we see through the gap is another wall. Thus, like Monument, Crevice returns us to ourselves.

Michael Wilson