Friday, November 06, 2009

Recurring Dream: Nick Mauss

[“Pavilion” (2009), video projected on wood. “Occasion” (2009), wood & silk ribbons. “Insert” (2009), wood, paper, & ink.]

303 Gallery is running its first exhibition of new work by Nick Mauss through December 5. Elements of drawing, painting, video sculpture, and installation have been corralled by the artist into this intermittently visceral “experience.” Walking through this exhibition—“suspended” as it is over boundaries and responses on the spectrum from positive to negative—can offer viewers any number of interactions. Introduced through various two and three-dimensional works in the show, ideas are more easily insinuated and absorbed. Mauss attempted to arrange this installation as if walking over notes that had settled over time—as in a recurring dream in which “the ceiling drifts repeatedly to the floor at regular intervals like some enormous, contour-less sheet of paper falling silently…”

While the artist has often thought of ways to arrange an exhibition that induces a choreography for the viewer, in this show he has attempted a space into which the viewer is transposed as the central figure. A wood frame supports a sheet of stretched paper at the entrance of the gallery, a jagged geometric form carved out of its center—this passageway standing as a figurative and permeable sentry. A series of drawings are etched into silver leaf—drawn, erased, and retraced. Their reflective surfaces merge with their quasi-hieroglyphic inscriptions, allowing material and manipulation to coalesce into each other with varying degrees of intensity in this fluid if not volatile suspension. Precariously balanced on plinths almost flush with the gallery walls, Mauss’ drawings function sculpturally as well: caught between being hung and being left behind. Other drawings are strung together—like sentences—with images confusingly inserted into each other. To create this “architecture of windows,” these drawings are displayed on low platforms on the floor or affixed directly to the wall.

The act of nesting images within other images, texts within other texts, and songs within songs is viewed by Mauss as an appealing way to convey variety within a single utterance, simultaneously encased within different aspects. In the center of the gallery, an equivocal—if not enigmatic—video of a scroll being pulled through a pair of still hands is projected onto a wood plank. The projection echoes isolated frames found in the figuration of the drawings, which could be read as renderings of other projections. The constantly moving scroll recalls a film leader or printing press as it perpetually moves through the stillness. The artist references a photograph of Orphism art movement co-founder Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979) “demonstrating” a copy of “La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France” (Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jeanne of France). Her body is covered entirely by an unfurled scroll on which the text of the poem is engulfed by her designs so that only her hands can be seen holding it up for the photograph. “If the scroll had been endless, and continued beyond the frame, beyond the time at which the photograph was taken, it might have looked like this.”

The pieces or series of pieces in this show are caught in their own dualities. They also communicate with the pieces around it—creating a sort of constellation of objects, or a new terrain in the gallery space. The viewer is implicated in its navigation, and allowed to draw personal paths and fill in the illusory blank spaces. The artist intends to obscure sources here so that the lineages of these works are indirect.

Currently included in the exhibition “Compass in Hand” at MoMA, the work of Nick Mauss has also appeared at the Chelsea Art Museum, Kunstverein München, Magasin (Grenoble), and the Kunstlerhaus Stuttgart.

New Works: Nick Mauss

Through December 5, 2009

@ 303 Gallery

547 W 21st Street, New York City 10011

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