What do you do if a building is slated for demolition? If you’re the artist Doug Aitken and the building is your gallery, you devise a “time-based destruction installation.” Which is precisely what Aitken, who is known for wrapping the facade of the Hirschhorn Museum in with a 360-degree video installation to the tune of “I Only Have Eyes For You,” installing a video “land art” installation on the Seattle Art Museum, and the video “Sleepwalkers” projected on the facades of MoMA, “a cinematic art experience that directly integrates with the architectural fabric of the city while simultaneously enhancing and challenging viewers’ perceptions of public space” did.
Aitken’s latest exhibition, which wrapped up at the end of March, entitled 100 YRS at Gallery 303 on West 21st Street was filled with word-based artworks such Plexiglas letters spelling “Art” with chocolate milk-like slurry cascading over the letters, black textured rock spelling “Sunset” and “Magic” featuring rear-lit images of the blowing up of Pruitt-Igo on each letter. Visitors were greeted by “Sonic Fountain” which is a round hole jackhammered out of the galley floor (since it was going to be destroyed anyway), filled with water from dripping pipes on the ceiling, and equipped with underwater microphones to amplify the dribbling sounds.
The gallery walls and floors were gradually being destroyed around these artworks over the last week, not by construction workers, but by musicians. Three percussionists gently deconstructed the space climbing onto drywall, hacking away at rubble, and rising on scissor-lifts, making a music of sorts as they worked.
The one-story building has been sold, and word from the gallery director Cristian Alexa is that Norman Foster has been retained to build a tower on the site.
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