AES+F, Allegoria Sarca, Still 1-22, 2011, Digital C-Print, 12.6×22.4 inches
RH Gallery is pleased to present 188.8.131.52.0, an exhibition influenced by the Mayan long count date marking the end of the 13th Bak’tun cycle, which, according to many scholars, falls on December 23, 2012. The artists included in the exhibition are AES+F, Rina Banerjee, Marcos Castro, Amelie Chabannes, Alex La Cruz, Myla Dalbesio, Tamar Ettun, Micah Ganske, Andrey Klassen, Jeremy Kost, Maria Kozak, Noel Middleton, Dane Patterson, Kristofer Porter, Elaine Reichek, Kirstine Roepstorff, Jean-Pierre Roy, Emily Stoddart, and Matthew Stone.
The Mayans’ extensive studies of the cosmos and planetary cycles underpinned one of the most elaborate calendar systems in human history. Although a significant number of people worldwide envisage the end of this long count cycle as apocalyptic, the Mayans recorded dates in the Classic Period that post-date 2012. Rather than a reckoning, the end of this long count cycle is a cause for celebration and regeneration. RH Gallery is taking this occasion to mount an exhibition exploring notions of apocalypse, rebirth, and temporal cycles.
Various interpretations of the apocalypse are featured in a number of the artists’ works: Kristofer Porter has painted a population of characters that recalls a dark fairytale illustration; Andrey Klassen presents a monumental ink drawing of a dystopian landscape riddled with fire; Marcos Castro’s large-scale watercolors depict apocalyptic scenes featuring wolves covered in sheepskins fleeing the landscape and a hawk perched above a skeleton also dressed with sheepskin; and Dane Patterson has made ominous photorealist graphite drawings of rooms in states of utter chaos. Inspired by Giovanni Bellini’s Allegoria Sacra, the Russian collective AES+F presents stills from their video of the same name with tribal, religious and ordinary figures imprisoned in a modern day purgatory. Myla Dalbesio’s installation is inspired by the infamous cult Heaven’s Gate whose 39 members committed mass suicide in order to reach the “Next Level” and evacuate the Earth before it was recycled. Micah Ganske presents a recent work in his Tomorrow Land series which depicts toxic landscapes in the United States cast with the shadows of aspirational technology, such as a space shuttle. Elaine Reichek’s embroidery pairs a Biblical text describing frozen waters and the “hoary frost of heaven” with an excerpt from explorer Fridtjof Nansen’s Diaries of the Fram, “…[E]verything so silent, so frighteningly silent, like the great silence that will arrive one day, when the world will once more be desolate and empty”.
Several artists have approached the exhibition with a focus on temporal cycles. In Soak It Up by Alex La Cruz, video footage documents the full moon and the sun in transition with interspersed kaleidoscopic imagery while The Sun follows an American road trip capturing the landscape in altering states of destruction and regeneration. Noel Middleton carved a nine-foot long wood necklace with a sundial for a pendant pointing to notions of ritual and the solar cycle. Emily Stoddart explores feminine gestures within a series of abstract, multimedia paintings to reflect the transition from a male-dominated period to a female reign as discussed in several texts relating to the Mayan calendar. Kirstine Roepstorff’s multimedia collage The Other Side of Time is centered on an image of the under-side of the London clock, Big Ben. In this new series of work, the artist explores the reading of space through the human construct of linear time.
Explorations of the idea of birth and rebirth are central to the works of a number of artists. Rina Banerjee’s work deals directly with the notion of rebirth, eloquently described in the sculpture’s title: She drew a premature prick, in a fluster of transgressions, abject by birth she knew not what else to do with this untouchable reach, unknowable body as she was an ancient savage towed into his modern present. Matthew Stone presents a life-size sculpture built with photographs of the human body while Maria Kozak paints a rising phoenix. Tamar Ettun continues her work with parachutes as a central material element. She will present a new performance at the opening reception in which the artist will cover herself in discarded parachutes and invite the audience to participate in an action inspired by Yoko Ono’s Cutting Piece. Sculptures relating to the performance will be presented as well. In Jeremy Kost’s silkscreen painting, Man in the Mirror, the artist depicts a moment from a performance piece in which men transformed into drag queens in a hotel room. This work will be presented alongside three recent double-exposure Polaroids taken at Père Lachaise cemetery and St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Pittsburg where Warhol’s grave attracts pilgrimages of devotees.
In a tangential manner, Amelie Chabannes explores birth and the construction of identity with sculptures in plaster, incorporating destruction and a kind of archeological search into her process. In Schema #1, the artist depicts a self-portrait while in Double Portrait: Linda Montano, Tehching Hsieh and a fourth hand, Object #1, the artist depicts a rope used in a year-long performance wherein Montano and Hsieh tied themselves together. In Chabanne’s rendition, the rope is broken. The partial destruction of this iconic object evokes the disappearance of the duo and the emergence of a third character: ‘the double,” a new entity created by their extreme association.
The artists, producing art from nearly every corner of the globe— Russia, Mexico, Israel, Germany, Canada, India and the USA—have approached this exhibition from a multitude of perspectives employing a diverse range of media including installation, performance, video, sculpture, painting and drawing. Throughout human history, most cultural and religious sects, including the Mayans, have employed artists to illustrate their gospel. This ambitious exhibition attempts to reiterate the potential of artistic production to conceptualize the impenetrable questions of human life and the mysterious qualities of time in the universe.