Bortolami Gallery is one of the most innovative galleries in Chelsea’s vibrant art district. Currently it is hosting an exhibit for three artists who share an approach of minimalism. An exhibition is curated by Christine Messineo, and is titled in a punctuating manner: ”ANN VERONICA JANSSENS, KITTY KRAUS DANIEL STEEGMANN MANGRANÉ First lines, like first dates, or the first bite of dessert, can be deceptive.” Even if the works would not seduce you at the first glance, spending some time with the installation and connecting pieces, might make you fall in love. Stepping into the space, which itself is a constellation of whiteness, concrete floors and strong ceiling lights, puts you into a certain mood. The space tunes to receive the immaterial lightness of some works. On the other hand, some pieces makes you investigate your own perception.
The exhibition title is taken from a text by Ann Beattie. She handles a theme of difficult of beginnings, asking where to start. If the beginnings can remain elliptical, the encounters may be unstable. A curatorial choice thereof has been to follow this principle, and create the exhibition around three artists with above question in mind. Ann Veronica Janssens, Kitty Kraus and Daniel Steegmann Mangrané present works all share experience which do not reveal, as ”First looks cannot be relied upon.”
Ann Veronica Janssen’s career has been full of experiments with form and perception, testing our reflections into familiar forms and to spatiality. Also in this exhibition her pieces invite to reflect. Magic Mirror Pink holds a possibility for a mirror-effect. Disque Vert holds magical presence being placed on the back wall, immediately popping out from the white walls. It reminds of a musical instrument, but instead of making sound it whispers with deeper than surface reflection. All the miracle that Janssen’s three works play within the exhibition tell about ”scientific phenomenon or physical property of light—its ability to bend, to refract, to remain encased within a prism-like volume.” The artist’s sculpture IPE 130 is the center piece of the large installation room. This sculpture is a steel I-beam lying on the ground of the gallery. The top of the sculpture has been polished so it reflects your image, or the objects in the room that touch upon the surface. The purpose is to communicate with the architecture, as all Janssen’s works ultimately do.
The exhibit starts right when entering the gallery. First room with windows to the street is a small one. One immediately encounters Steegmann Mangrané’s sound installation. He has worked with sound that comes from seven speakers that are placed throughout the gallery; taking two rooms. The sound is composed as prolonged note played on the flute. ”The duration of each note corresponds to the lung capacity and stamina of the flautist, Joana Saraiva. As one note comes to its end, another note begins to play from different speaker in the gallery.” In this area, there is a need to find the source of the sound, which does not resonate clearly from the speakers. The art objects in the exhibition carry so much, so perhaps sound gets confused or finds ways to attach to different bodies. Mangrané has worked with notion of immateriality. The lightness of breath which is present in the musical notes creates meaning in conjunction to his sculptural works as well. He has created several metal chains that hang from the ceiling that reach the floor intending to alter the viewer’s ability to negotiate the space. Additionally, a group of small cardboard sculptures appear as the most ethereal part of the show – which overall seems slightly prismic, metallic, or technologically referential. These are like masks made of sycamore tree bark. Their curved altered face-like shapes absorb the light creating shadows on the wall, ”seemingly lending mass to the immaterial.”
Kitty Kraus’s piece Untitled (Light Box) which, although it is situated in the small room in the back, has especially strong presence. ”Taking the form of a large pedestal, the sculpture casts a strong light from only a thin horizontal aperture that runs around the middle of the dark, rectangular volume.” As you go around the sculpture you can see it upon yourself thus becoming part of its field. The sculpture leaves out an emitted light line that draws the perimeter of the room. When people enter the room the light from outside communicates with the darkness of the sculpture and its surrounding space. White lines of the exterior space meet with the dark hollowing entity of the box, creating magical installation that eats up the space, almost disturbing the perception, and pointing to the trivial?
The exhibition will run until April 26, 2014