MARTIN BOYCE: SLEEPING CHIMNEYS. DEAD STARS.: Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York
For the past seventy years, de Chirico’s city has been one of the capitals of the modern imagination. It is a fantasy town, a state of mind, signifying alienation, dreaming and loss. Its elements are so well known by now that they fall into place as soon as they are named, like jigsaw pieces worn by being assembled over and over again; the arcades, the tower, the piazza, the shadows, the statue, the train, the mannequin. That de Chirico was a poet, and a great one, is never in dispute. He could condense voluminous feeling through metaphor and association.
— Robert Hughes, Nothing If Not Critical: Selected Essays on Art and Artist, 1990
At the top of the staircase, another familiar domestic form reveals itself—a tarnished blue bedframe flipped on its end. The absence of a mattress creates a skeletal passageway, leading us into a dreamscape. An illuminated hanging lamp guides our way Into This sleep—the title of this steel sculpture.
Past the hollowed frame, a painted door floats horizontally low to the ground. Now rendered as a bed, the door becomes a place for repose and reverie. A brass lamp rests on top. The lamp’s rigid post now wilts softly like a reclining figure, it’s pink fringes hang from the shade and drape like hair cascading gently on white sheets. Further exploring the contradictions that inform our perception, Dead Star (Reclining) dissolves the distinction between the constructed and the natural worlds. The familiar, often overlooked, forms have been given new life as they are expropriated from their original functions, altered, and mutated. The door becomes a bed, the bed becomes a door.
The exhibition culminates with a monumental fireplace sculpture on a freestanding wall in the back of the gallery. Its soft, weathered cast tiles demonstrate two of the artists’ signature patterns—the diagonal, grid and the concrete trees of the Martel brothers. A nod towards the relationship between nature and architecture, a geometric vine crawls up the gridded facade. Within the hearth, a miniature landscape appears as a tiny stage set. A small yellow lantern hangs from above and a tiny blue staircase ascends toward the unknown. The show is now over, the audience gets up to leave their seats.
Martin Boyce’s Turner prize-winning installation, Do Words Have Voices is on view at Tate Britain as part of their BP Spotlight series through June 2017. Boyce (b.1967) lives and works in Glasgow and represented Scotland at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009. His work has been exhibited at RISD Museum, Providence; Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel; Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead; Sculpture Center, New York; Centre d'Art Contemporain, Geneva and MMK Frankfurt, among others. This summer, his work will be included in EUROVISIONS: Contemporary art from the Goldberg Collection at the National Art School, Sydney and True Faith at the Manchester Art Gallery curated by Matthew Higgs. Boyce’s work is represented in many prominent collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate, London; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; and Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.
All installation images above: Photo by Maris Hutchinson