‘Space Is the Place’
504 West 22nd Street, Chelsea
Through July 31
This two-man show organized by the Venezuelan artist Javier Téllez appears at first to be an exercise in Relational Aesthetics, violating the sanctity of the gallery space in various ways that have become predictable. Fortunately, the artists use the basic principles of R.A., as the movement is known, as cover for more personal investigations. It’s about them, not us.
Ferrán Martín, who is from Spain, drops the gallery’s ceiling to the height of his dead father (5 feet 4 inches). The gesture works on a number of levels. Physically, it forces all but the smallest viewers to stoop, a dictatorial imposition. (The news release notes that Manolo Martín, Ferrán’s father, was the same height as Franco.) And because the gallery is on the basement level of a town house, the dropped ceiling is below ground; it gives viewers the disconcerting feeling of being in rising floodwaters.
Eduardo Gil, a Venezuelan, has made a video of himself hitting a tennis ball off the four walls of the gallery. The piece, “Muscle Memory 2,” isn’t exactly site-specific; it’s a version of an earlier project executed in his studio. In between ground strokes, the camera cuts to cultural objects in Mr. Gil’s possession: a standard postcollegiate mix of books and albums, with the occasional baseball card thrown in. It’s silly but endearing, as if the artist were squaring off with his former self, and benefits from Mr. Martín’s altered space.
The curator, Mr. Téllez, includes himself in the exhibition. (You may remember his video of blind people interacting with an elephant, from last year’s Whitney Biennial.) Here he has designed a poster/gallery announcement that reproduces a still from Luis Buñuel’s 1969 film “La Voie Lactée” (“The Milky Way”). It shows the pope in front of a firing squad, and offers a reminder (in case anyone still needs one) that galleries aren’t sacred spaces.