Pipilotti Rist: Heroes of Birth at Luhring Augustine
September 11-October 16, 2010
531 West 24th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues
New York City, 212-206-9100
Providing an immersive experience through the lush use of color, images, and sound is a signature of Pipilotti Rist’s installations. Captivating and disorienting, her current show at Luhring Augustine Gallery, Heroes of Birth, completely transforms the three-room gallery space, as only Rist can, yet it falls short of her own high standards, aninnocuous version of earlier work.
Upon entering the gallery you are wrapped in warm pink light and pulled into another world. All or Nothing (alles oder nichts) (2010), in the entry gallery is an altar-like installation, comprised of a three-part video screen, with offerings of grains, fruit, flowers, and a water dispenser with cups displayed below on a minimal white shelf. On each visit to the show I found myself spending the most time with this simple piece which offers the viewer a moment to pause and reflect before entering the interior gallery. The video on display, a candy colored kaleidoscope of twirling hands and bouncing male genetalia, is mesmerizing, hilarious, and slightly embarrassing. Meanwhile the food and drink give you an excuse to stand and stare for a while. Inside the main gallery space, Layers Mama Layers (2010) is a multifaceted and slightly overwhelming installation. A video of fluffy sheep frolicking on lush green hills is projected onto and through four gossamer sheets of white fabric that have been hung from the ceiling. Fluorescent green circular patterns grow to fill the room, then recede. The sounds of a slowly tinkling music box fill the room eerily. Walking through the rows, the videos are projected through each sheet of fabric and onto you and the other viewers, resulting in an entirely cohesive yet disorienting experience.
The body parts from All or Nothing return in the back gallery, in the form of wallpaper. A human kaleidoscope lines the walls of a room lit by Massachusetts Chandelier (2010), a hanging structure crafted from pairs of large, unsexy underwear. This room is also filled with the innocent sounds of the music box, but the chandelier overshadows the other works in this gallery. Lit both from within and by colored lights projected onto the sculpture, Massachusetts Chandelier is funny, disturbing, and quite beautiful in an off-putting way, but is conceptually flat. Like the green graphic patterns in the main gallery, this piece feels decorative, a visually enthralling and funny way to fill space.
Themes of childhood, sexuality, and gender are threaded throughout the work, but no clear stance has been taken on any of these contentious issues. New techniques and tools are employed in Heroes of Birth, providing a trippy, out-of-body-experience, but the imagery feels recycled from Rists’ previous work.
Her massive installation at the Museum of Modern Art last year, Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters), for example, impressively transformed MoMA’s cold, modernist atrium into a swirl of hot pink light, and large-scale moving images of nature. Each aspect of the installation, including the rounded projector casings on the wall, the donut-shaped couch with soft cushions, and video projections of fruits, flowers and a female figure, were a gentle yet subversive move against the inherent masculinity of such art institutions. In a review in New York Magazine that was brimming with girly adjectives, Jerry Saltz declared that “Rist makes the institution ovulate.”
More explicitly sexual than Pour Your Body Out, Heroes of Birth is engaging in the use of dichotomous imagery: the masculine and feminine, salacious and infantile are all mashed together. Yet the show is a watered down version of what we know the artist can do. The work is titillating and enjoyable, but not as subversive or profound as Rist can be.print