New York

Cristine Brache, Film Stills from Bermuda Triangle 1–12 (2), 2022, digital C-print, 9 × 6".

Cristine Brache, Film Stills from Bermuda Triangle 1–12 (2), 2022, digital C-print, 9 × 6".

Cristine Brache

At the bottom of a long flight of stairs, a floor below Baxter Street on the edge of Manhattan’s Chinatown, Cristine Brache’s quietly elegiac presentation “Bermuda Triangle” bathed Anonymous Gallery’s space in an uncanny aquatic ambience. The show’s dreamily natant mood was due in part to its artifactual centerpiece: a blue inflatable pool set in the middle of the gallery. The object functioned as a double aide-mémoire—a physicalized symbol of the recollection at the heart of the project, as well as a site for the transmission of its phantasmal traces in beautifully grainy Super 8 footage projected into its shallows like a vision shimmering tantalizingly at the bottom of a wishing well. But the scene in question—further recapitulated in a series of stills from the film presented both as small paired photo sets and as vanishingly pale-azure paintings executed in ink on silk—was also itself a kind of aqueous reverie. Brache was attempting to conjure and complicate a moment of intimacy between her parents, who eventually separated, captured in an aging snapshot. The array of water-bewitched objects and images in the show foregrounded the cloudy, piecemeal nature of memory and nostalgia, while placing into evocative tension those expressions of tenderness and desperation that inevitably hover around love gone awry.

When Brache was about ten years old, her devoutly Catholic parents announced they were getting divorced, shattering her adolescent sense of marriage as a sacrosanct embodiment of the mystical confederacy between Christ and the church and sending her into a spiral of disillusionment and doubt. Looking to place this childhood crisis of faith in dialogue with the feelings of loss and disorientation she experienced amid the destabilizing effects of the pandemic, Brache—who is also a poet—built her diaristic project around the aforementioned photo, which shows her parents embracing and kissing half-submerged in a pool, apparently very much in love. While the blurry moving images of her re-creation of the scene—all washed in deep-blue shadow—played on the bottom of the filled kiddie pool, the subjects’ affectionate caresses gradually turned into a very different kind of embrace, with the two actors playing her mother and father seen performing CPR on one another on the pool deck. Within the narrative of a relationship ultimately headed for rupture, the twinned scenes of Eros and pathos are not perhaps as distinct as they might at first appear. For Brache, they describe not oppositional conditions but rather positions on an intersubjective continuum, where love blooms and then begins to die away, despite even the most dedicated attempts at resuscitation.

Every aspect of Brache’s persuasive, carefully calibrated show—the murky video flickering beneath the disaggregating surface of the water in the pool; the hazy indigo chiaroscuro that enveloped the fond and panicked bodies in the stills; the thirteen paintings, named after Latin songs or noirish movies featuring lovers on the run, whose inverted palette suggested cinematic negatives—was predicated on attenuation, evaporation, loss of fixity. And thus the focus of the exhibition’s title, that patch of ocean comprising three geographical points—Miami in the west, Puerto Rico in the south (where the artist was born and where her family comes from, respectively), and Bermuda in the north—otherwise known as the Devil’s Triangle. Mythologized as a zone where things inexplicably go missing, this area was an apt metaphor for Brache’s affecting meditation on the correlations between enchantment and disenchantment—and on the ways that even the most apparently reliable bonds and convictions can suddenly begin to list and founder, or vanish altogether, without even the vaguest of warnings.