About the InstallationGladstone 64 is pleased to present SAFE, a group exhibition that reveals a series of foreboding narratives hidden beneath the mundane and banal facets of everyday life. Through a collection of painting, photography, sculpture and installation, the exhibition brings together works by artists including Richard Artschwager, Robert Mapplethorpe, Sam McKinniss, Bruce Nauman, Philippe Parreno, Marina Pinsky and Richard Prince.
The exhibition’s origin is built upon themes prevalent throughout 20th-century film and literature, including intangibility, ambiguity and loneliness brought about through an individual’s reckoning with society, recurring throughout a variety of works such as Jean-Paul Sartre’s La Nausée (1938), Don DeLillo’s White Noise (1985) and Todd Haynes’ film Safe (1995). In Haynes’ movie, Julianne Moore, who plays a suburban California housewife, becomes ill in reaction to the quotidian aspects of her modern world and seemingly innocuous life. The film depicts the gradual deterioration of all aspects of Moore’s character’s life—physical health, mental state, family—until she reaches a solution of complete social isolation. This exhibition visually explores the conventions of modern society that catalyze the deterioration of Moore’s character and the notion of turning away from the state of the world, either necessarily or electively. The show explores various motifs of uncertainty and withdrawal, questioning the banality of everyday occurrences and the intangibility of mental illness and self-exploration.
SAFE’s collection of artworks are tied together through psychological themes and by each work’s ability to juxtapose notions of the everyday with the abnormal. Philippe Parreno’s 6.00 PM (2000-06), a red carpet with the imprint of a light-filled window, creates an environment from a wall devoid of any real windows. Always displayed against a windowless wall, this work questions the temporality of exhibitions and the ways in which time and space have an effect on visibility, also playing with notions of perception, normalcy and reality. In a space that already has natural light spilling through the windows, this work creates a sense of confused perception and deliberate illusion. This peculiarity of nature is also prevalent in Artschwager’s Loop (1986), which frames a square-shaped area of fake wood inside a window-like black frame, which happens to resemble an early iPhone. The false wood grain recalls a Rorschach ink test, and reveals a mix of sinister, alien-like designs and faces that appear and disappear as the viewer scans the area of its intricate and mirrored surface. Bruce Nauman’s Caffeine Dreams (1987) suggests the ordinary through the recurring motif of generic coffee mugs, while providing feelings of uncertainty through the implied chaos caused by the anonymous characters’ inability to achieve the simple task of holding a cup of coffee. Nauman’s title interjects a feeling of surrealism, turning what should be a normal occurrence into a dreamlike sequence where reality and imagination become indifferentiable. These cerebrally layered narratives are further developed in McKinniss’ painting, Linda (2018), which takes a still from the film Magnolia instead of Safe, adding another layer of dislocation and confusion. The painting depicts a distraught Moore, whose floating head occupies a stark black space that suggests the character’s bleak disconnection from reality. Together, these works possess the power to transcend physical appearances and compositions to prompt uneasy narratives that disrupt feelings of normalcy and safety.