Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Chadwicks in "Time Out"

TimeOut New York's Jane Harris responds to our current exhibition by The Chadwicks:

What happens when a sculptor and a professor of literature get together to make art? If they’re Jimbo Blachly and Lytle Shaw, the result is something very kooky. Posing as the fictional editors of the equally fictitious Chadwick Family Papers, their collaboration, “The Genretron,” offers one weird spoof on the convoluted world of academic minutiae.

Described in the press release as a family of “eminent connoisseurs, sea captains, naval engineers and amateur historians,” the Chadwicks are apparently obsessed with the Dutch Golden Age, though little hint is given as to why. Instead, viewers first encounter a gorgeous set of etchings, “Foreground Floor Debris,” that depict still-life objects coupled with nonsensical texts. Out of hand, the pan falls from its purpose, features Vermeer’s famed checkered floor scattered with utensils directly above those very same words. A video displayed on the same wall shows a dollhouse-scale diorama of an old Dutch tavern, in which Blachly and Shaw pop up and down like Punch and Judy, their giant hands tossing tiny cups and chairs as Shaw reads a homophonic version of a verse by the 17th-century Dutch humorist and poet Jacob Cats.

If this isn’t arcane enough, the titular panoramic installation of Dutch landscape motifs—made of chicken wire, plaster, wood and paint—will surely leave you scratching your head, especially since the space given over for viewing it is deliberately cramped. Likewise, a group of landscape sketches feels like another piece of an absurdist puzzle. In the end, entertaining as it is, Blachly and Shaw’s conceit may be too realistic for anyone but a Dutch scholar to understand.

You really should stop in to see these gorgeous etchings and the Genretron. Even if there are understandable gaps in your Dutch scholarship. :-)

Labels: gallery exhibition, review


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