NEW YORK TIMES - 7-17-18
Through Aug. 17. Flag Art Foundation, 545 West 25th Street, Manhattan; 212-206-0220, flagartfoundation.org.
Drawing inspiration from the boxes of Joseph Cornell, this group show gathers artworks that array ordinary objects within cabinets or other types of containers. The theme is simple, but applied liberally and intelligently by the curator Jonathan Rider, it brims with reminders of the feats of transmutation that artists can perform.
At times the gesture is minimal: Kader Attia has placed books by Freud and Jacques Lacan on an antique Vietnamese ladder; the quiet juxtaposition invites viewers to consider the prevalence of cross-pollination, and often exploitation, across different cultures. Sometimes it’s maximal: Portia Munson has amassed a dizzying collection of pink items — toys, clothes, furniture and more — and turned them into an overstuffed bedroom that feels like a shrine to consumerism as well as a critique of it.
Sophie Calle inspires existential broodings with a display case containing all the gifts she received on her birthday in 1983. The presence of books and flowers and handwritten notes is both heartwarming and a bit bleak, the reduction of human relationships to so many aging artifacts. With his meticulous dioramas constructed inside small jewelry boxes, Curtis Talwst Santiago offers a counterpoint: castoffs can contain worlds.
This is a motif throughout “Dime-Store Alchemy” — that we might do well to give more thought and care to the everyday trappings of our lives. Nicole Wermers makes the case by filling a plastic baby-changing unit with a precious material, cast terrazzo; Nancy Shaver paints small cardboard boxes that once held crackers and household items. What these artists know is that it’s a matter of framing. Once ordinary objects are placed in extraordinary contexts, they don’t look quite the same. JILLIAN STEINHAUER