Give an artist a shovel and he might dig out a hole in your gallery floor. A couple of years back, Swiss artist Urs Fischer did it at the, then new, New Museum.This time around, American artist Doug Aitken dug deep at 303 Gallery in Chelsea.
From the moment you step in, there’s no way around it (but fortunately there is!). The visitor is irremediably drawn to the big gaping hole. That’s what holes are about: they’re always “in the middle” of something and claim all attention.
When approaching the rough edge of this indoor excavation, the curious eye is naturally expecting to discover the bottom. And maybe find something down there. But Doug Aitken is not giving anything away: the hole is filled with murky, milky water. Which turns the hole into a pool. The resemblance to mud pools in Yellowstone, for example, is obvious. Only here, the mud is not boiling.
The calm surface of the pool will eventually be disturbed, but not from within, not from below, not from the deepest of the earth. A first drop from above breaks the mirroring white surface into a simple, gentle ripple. And then another. And another. What at first seems to be impromptu pulse comes together in rhythmic sound, electronically amplified and echoed by the walls.
Saying that this pool of sound did not make me think of rain may sound strange. (Because it just did!) I would prefer to associate it with the dripping of stalactites. The sound of the echo and the calcium-like substance of the water appertain more to a cavernous environment. Which brings us back to our starting point: a hole in the ground.
The other pieces that are included in this exhibition appear to be of a completely different kind. Where the central pool could be described as indoor land art, these works are graphical and more than reminiscent of pop art. The materials (plexiglass, mirrors and neon) stand in blatant contrast with the natural feel of the pool. But the themes of nature, time and rhythm tie them all together. The corroded surface of SUNSET, the bubbling rusty water and the volcanic stones of ART, the shattered mirrors of MORE, the frequency of the neons in NOT ENOUGH “TIME” IN THE “DAY” and the obvious elapsed time in 100YRS. They’re all measures and manifestations of time.
When you plan a visit, make sure you go shortly after SUNRISE, so you have the place to yourself. Make ENOUGH TIME to enjoy the ART and walk around the pool MORE than once. In a 100YRS it will all be gone.
Chelsea, New York City
till March 23