New York – Douglas Gordon: “tears become…streams become….” at the Park Avenue Armory Through January 4th, 2015

December 31st, 2014

Douglas Gordon, tears become…streams become… (2014), via Art Observed
Douglas Gordon, tears become…streams become… (2014), via Art Observed

Douglas Gordon’s work often takes its strength from its simplicity.  Using minimal alterations and contextual wrinkles in the selections of his exhibition spaces, works and collaborations, Gordon seems to draw a certain pleasure from bringing out deeper recognitions of the space and structure of art as presentation, as experiential and institutional meditation.

Douglas Gordon, tears become…streams become… (2014), photo by  JAmes Ewing
Douglas Gordon, tears become…streams become… (2014), photo by James Ewing

In his newest exhibition at the Park Avenue Armory, Gordon seems to attempt this yet again, filling the Wade Thompson Drill Hall with gallon upon gallon of water.  The premise is simple, but the final effects are far from it, creating an immense reflecting pool inside the cavernous space.  But the work itself serves in part merely as a platform for the performances of pianist Hélène Grimaud, who has performed a number of water-themed works within the space.  Pieces by Debussy, Ravel and Liszt serve as a thematic emphasis for the exhibition, emphasizing a certain emotional counterpoint to the plainly presented body of water that Gordon has created.

Douglas Gordon, tears become…streams become… (2014), photo by  James Ewing
Douglas Gordon, tears become…streams become… (2014), photo by James Ewing

Visually, the exhibition is a true sight to behold.  The immense, arching ceiling of the space is mirrored almost perfectly by the watery surface below it, revealing an ellipsoidal illusion that captures the audience within its field.  Even the dual pianos, jutting up from the center of the installation cannot escape their surroundings, and seem to fall away from Grimaud as she plays through her program.  Slight disturbances and alterations in the surface can occasionally be detected, momentary alterations that break the silence of the space, but equally allow a moment of pause that makes the space all the more surreal.

Douglas Gordon, tears become…streams become… (2014), via Art Observed
Douglas Gordon, tears become…streams become… (2014), via Art Observed

Titled tears become…streams become, Gordon’s execution here seems to explore the notion of emotional distance and immediacy in equal measure.  The works performed by Grimaud make much of their performance context, delicate numbers that emphasize their sentimentality, especially within the echoing space of the drill hall.  Yet at the same time, the installation itself gives very little in terms of evocative queues, instead presenting an open stage in which floor and ceiling fold into each other as the music continues to play.

Douglas Gordon, tears become…streams become… (2014), photo by  JAmes Ewing
Douglas Gordon, tears become…streams become… (2014), photo by  James Ewing

It’s the same sort of inversion that makes so much of Gordon’s work elusively complex.  Removing the floor of the exhibition space, and effectively turning the space into a hall of mirrors, Gordon leaves only the piano itself as a point of negotiation within the work.  His work is ultimately a static environment, one that visually collapses in on itself as a result of its reflexive visual landscape, and which in turn seems to approach the disconnect between emotion, performance and gesture that the arts so often contends with, but rarely addresses in its own right.

tears become…streams become… closes on January 4th.

— D. Creahan

Read more:
tears become…streams become… [Park Avenue Armory]
‘An Inside Look at tears become… streams become…‘ [Park Avenue Armory]
‘Water World: Douglas Gordon Floods the Park Avenue Armory’ [Vogue]
‘A Stage, a Pool, a Flood of Ideas’ [NY Times]