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Smack Mellon


Rendez-Vous is one part of the ambitious, multi-venue program now underway throughout Williamsburg and DUMBO, entitled Paris in Brooklyn, Brooklyn à Paris. The intent is to cross-pollinate art centers. The curator, Claire Le Restif, has eschewed the instrumental use of artists in service of a visual thesis in favor of an exhibition which might cultivate dialogue and exchange. As such, it represents an encouraging evolution of curatorial activity away from the shallow and proscriptive assemblages of “hot young” curators, towards the cultivation of that unique curatorial attribute of the prime facilitator. Here, the viewer is entrusted with drawing out the works’ themes, which circle around issues of latency and boundaries.

Each of the French artists was challenged to create work site unseen for the cavernous Smack Mellon space, which incidentally, must be the greatest space in New York, especially when compared with the absurd idealized nullity of the Chelsea “yacht showrooms.” In the main space, there is a 14-foot round table/map standing just off the floor by David Renaud, entitled “Iles Kerguelen 1/10000ieme.” In the center of the giant ocean map is a small, improbable looking island, which, it turns out, is an Antarctic island belonging to France. The metaphor of geographic distance is made palpable in the map, which forces the viewer to lean perilously inward from the edges in an effort to read the tiny map labels. As the names are completely unfamiliar, a form of abstraction seeps into the rational mind. Without experiential referent, the content-bearing role of the named place collapses. The distortion implicit in the imposition of a gridded Mercator projection and the signification of the ocean into a monochrome milk blue (which divorces the island from its context within the topography of the ocean floor) reinforces the hypothetical nature of the scientific map. The untethering of scale from its normative size is unnerving; the small island becomes a continent, yet still miniscule when compared to the actual site.

On the balcony above the main room are Stephane Calais’s stacked groups of painted cardboard signs for “clouds,” which call to mind the notion of latency. This sense of stored up potentiality is also given expression in Paul Pouvreau’s cardboard blockhouse construction, which invites the viewer to collapse the structure with a well-placed Power Ranger blow.

Rendez-Vous includes a literal meeting point in the quit video program entitled “Zoom” in the upstairs viewing room. The videos deftly tie into the show as a whole, perhaps due to their utilization of predominantly visual as opposed to auditory means. Timothy Mason’s video “Land of Plenty” presents the super marketing of the supermarket as seen through the gridded projection of a camera placed in a shopping cart. The unedited cart-high view reveals berserk American capitalism with painstaking indifference.


John Hawke

JOHN HAWKE is a contributor to the Rail.


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