In recent years, Transformer has established itself as the go-to destination for site-specific art, moving away from both the art object and gallery space in favor of performances and installations at places like the Mexican Cultural Institute, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the old 14th Street NW auto showroom that now houses Room and Board. With Rebecca Key’s installation “Archetype,” the focus is back on Transformer: The artist has imagined one of the gallery walls as the alley space it once was. For the U.K. artist’s first solo show in the States, Key has painted (with the help of a few technical wizards) one side of the interior white gallery space to appear as a trompe l’œil wall of red brick and wheatpaste posters. Garbage cans (filled with the gallery’s own garbage) and some other odds and ends round out the deception, but the effect is incomplete. Without the chicken bones, rats, or odor of urine—all signs of life on 14th Street before the arrival of the high-end furniture stores that now line both sides of the thoroughfare—the alley in Transformer is far from the alley Transformer replaced. The aseptic presentation takes away from the connection to the actual site and its history. And while it’s for the best that no one pees in the gallery, as it stands, Key has recreated any alley from any place.
THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW 1 TO 7 P.M. WEDNESDAY TO SATURDAY TO OCT. 15 AT TRANSFORMER GALLERY, 1404 P ST. NW. FREE. (202) 483-1102.