For this weekend and this weekend only, three artists have transformed a condo basement space into an ambitious installation called Spleen, a dreadful vision of a post-apocalyptic colony cobbled together from industrial waste and biomorphic forms.
Artists Oreen Cohen, ART CARGO (Jacqueline Levine), and Sarah Allison are calling it an “art experience,” and to further that notion, they’ve documented the entire progress of the work through video and updates on their website. (Disclosure: Allison is a former student of mine.) But make no mistake, this is sculpture—-big, honking, contemporary sculpture, made from windshield glass, balloon-animal balloons, and ceramic.
Spleen—-which is in the basement of the Moderno at 1939 12th Street NW, right at the corner of U Street, all weekend long—-succeeds in not looking a great deal like the garbage-cum-sculpture that has taken hold of New York in recent years. Think the 2008 Whitney Biennial, the New Museum’s “Unmonumental”, or the Hirshhorn’s “The Uncertainty of Objects and Ideas”. Each of those ambitious shows surveyed artworks that used conventional, storebought, or refuse materials to depict anxiety—-anxiety about materials, anxiety about the recession, anxiety about the loosey-goosey state of sculpture in the present day.
Don’t mistake Spleen for anxious work. It’s more horrible than all that. Brooding in the bowels of the Moderno condo building, this awful organism could be an industrial tumor, a cancer made of rubber, plastic, metal and glass. Particularly good is the cluster of balloons, a gonadal nexus of balloons, arranged like the bizarre, distributed cilia sex organs of a sea monsters—-but painted in industrial colors of rusted copper and bilious black.
OK, perhaps Spleen does convey some anxiety. It is a garbage monster in the heart of a U Street condo building. Standing in front of the thing, though, it doesn’t read so politically. What it does evoke is a love of common materials, which are assembled with surprising care in order to reach the grossest possible effect.
Spleen is on view at Moderno, 1939 12th St. NW today and tomorrow, 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.