Window on the Environment: Etty Yaniv in DUMBO
Etty Yaniv: Run Off at Main Window
December 20, 2019 through February 13, 2020
1 Main Street, between Plymouth and Water streets
Playing with recycled materials across two- and three-dimensional surfaces, Etty Yaniv’s site-specific installation, at Main Window in Dumbo, Run Off, transcends visual boundaries,. (Comprising a window space on Main Street in DUMBO, Main Window has featured Brooklyn-based artists since 1980.) In this piece, Yaniv showcases her ability to use the language of material to subtly insert deliberate, familiar allusions to specific places while spurring dialogue around ecological awareness. Her unexpected gathering of materials such as ribbon, plastic, bits of paper and other ephemera in combination with her own photography, transforms an extremely restricted space into an awesome new reality whose gravitas transcends its actual scale.
Windows are a prominent theme in Yaniv’s work, so it’s a natural progression to see her work actually installed in one. It acts both as a commemorative element and a barrier between the viewer and an untamable scene. The historic architectural gold framing gives the work a monumental quality, elevating the composition as a timeless representation of the past, present and future. The scene on display – water rushing down subway stairs – is well situated, evoking images of the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy in one of the neighborhoods most affected by its destructive pathYaniv plays with the fantastical element of displacement to create a unique landscape, with an array of disparate elements. An unnaturally steep staircase that is the work’s central motif generates a sense of vertigo By nature of its window setting, the installation is automatically removed from the viewer’s immediate reality in a way that actually puts Yaniv’s environmental concerns on literal display.
Her use of color is strategic and intentionally limited. The photographic elements within the installation – whether fragments or the main photograph of the stairs– are mostly black and white while the wild elements of plastic and mixed material are predominantly blue with sporadic splashes of other colors. The color is not spontaneous, however, but is strategically placed to elicit a message of conservation and call attention to the natural elements within the work.
Run Off assumes an almost interactive quality through the glass, as reflections of viewers and city life overlay the installation. Translucent outlines from adjacent fences seem to contour the stairway imagery, as the city’s skyline casts an imposing silhouette of buildings, fire escapes and other rigid structures along the upper portion of the piece. At night, the installation is further transformed as light casts ghostly reflections of viewers on top of the work, which only serves to underline the message of human influence on the environment. We are more than mere observers.
Beyond its environmental concerns, Run Off tells a dynamic story that changes with each subsequent viewing. Overall Yaniv’s allusions to escalating environmental crises are subtle and poetic, evoking trepidation and awe at where it might lead Environmental anxiety intersects the day-to-day realities of New Yorkers with images the gritty metal subway stairs completely immersed in water.