Sunday, January 7, 2018

vernissages | NYC: Heavy Metal in Chelsea

The most noticeable event inaugurating the 2018 New York art season is the Survival Research Laboratory (SRL) exhibition/performance, which opened on January 6 at Marlborough Contemporary in Chelsea. The exhibition, titled "Inconsiderate Fantasies of Negative Acceleration Characterized by Sacrifices of a Non-Consensual Nature" includes eight kinetic sculptures spanning from 1986 to the present, as well as with video documentation of past performances enacted by these sculptures. Visitors are requested to sign a bold disclaimer releasing SRL from liability for injuries and loss of property during the perfomance. An intense smell of gasoline and burned material pervades the "white box" of the gallery space.
    SRL was founded in in the late 1970's by Mark Pauline in the San Francisco Bay Area; for four decades SRL has been presenting robots made of heavy metal scavenged from factories or waste, in an apocalyptic dystopian aesthetics. Often dead animal are incorporated in the compositions. The performances consist in the moving machines and humans roles are limited to operating the machines or viewing the events, which often include fire and explosions. Mark Pauline's hand became a fatality of one of these explosion in 1982. I read that the performing robots will be for sale.
     It was first time I was attending a SRL performance and found the event disturbing but not engaging. As a survivor of bullying I have always resorted to art as a copying strategy to the damaging violence (even if not of physical nature) I have been subjected throughout my life. The harmony and the uncanny logic and mystery of sacred geometry have been a survival means creating peacefulness and beauty.

A few blocks way,  an exhibition of sculptures by Mark di Suvero opened at Paula Cooper Gallery. Another "heavy metal" exhibition but more engaging in terms of search for form and beauty. These sculpture are not kinetic, although the helicoidal shape seems to be suggestive of movement.