Collective Unconscious

This was my favorite show in a long time.  IMG_0679IMG_0682

First, laboratory glassware with the ink ghosts of crowds living in it.  A whole laboratory’s worth.  I used to teach at a school with a great old chemistry lab, and stripped and punched and crumbled as the whole building was, the wood cabinets and the glassware were all there.  What was not were the ghosts, ghosts are usually white, but these were black, the images of all sorts of things that had already happened.

IMG_0678Then tree paintings with levels living inside them, one level living horizontal, another vertical.  Right now there are tape measure sculptures on the High Line, next to trees there are tape measures, as if trees are nothing more than what they will be, lumber, paper, and I am the worst offender, as I told a student this week, “I am a writer, wasting trees is what I do,” “Ms Schurman, those downtown Brooklyn people, they’re activists, it’s so annoying, they’re always asking why I don’t recycle paper at the copy shop.”

IMG_0671Cutting boards, same as we have at home (tepid white plastic, I wish we had a wooden one but I am living communally and that is what we have), and with scratches, these, lined up, are oceanscapes, somehow, how can the ocean be cut? How can it be made of slices?  How can it appear on plastic?  The ocean isn’t cut into anything, is it, except visually?

IMG_0672A flag becoming itself through red velvet ropes that are stretched, cut people out.

I rarely like art that becomes political, apart from the sense that everything is political (it is), but Yoan Capote is Cuban.

What I know of Cuba is the (eye-roll) American fetish for cigars when overseas.  I know it twice, once through customs, and Before Night Falls, which mainly impressed me with the author’s fabulous sexual adventures.  He kept busy.

IMG_0669There is a pair of scissors that somehow became Florida.  To cut things up?  People in Florida cut.  All I know of Florida is Disney World, which is another country the same way Cuba is, maybe much the same way, that is, things are inside-out and backwards and money is different and you  must be happy with yourself, as with communism.  But seriously, I don’t know anything about Florida except Disney World and the Oceola rest stop where our car broke down once, we sat and played cards in a booth in the half of the gas station that used to be a diner but wasn’t, anymore.

IMG_0674There are doorknobs that start from one which is real, in a real door, and go up and up until they are tiny enough to swallow, with a tiny lock that isn’t a lock anymore.  Maybe that isn’t political, not that it matters.

A great show is beautifully imagined and made, and think-infested, doesn’t take itself too seriously but is dead serious in its own way.

IMG_0670What is sort of an animal’s rib cage, but is actually from a machine that has lungs, machine lungs, inside machine iron ribs.

IMG_0667Glasses that become almost another pair of glasses, whatever that might mean, to see with someone else’s glasses, someone else’s face, if you have a boyfriend, you might sometimes wear his glasses, and he, yours, for a lark, you could see a little better with his but not really much, and he could only get a headache from yours, anyone else just looks like Coke bottles up, like joke glasses, with yours, even though you paid extra for the superthin lenses.

IMG_0675Floor to ceiling head of a man, made of metal, those are hinges, the man is That Man who is everywhere, the hinges, him, the doors all around him, like he grew out of a pile of them, the doors, the doors, the hinges, from Cuba, yes.  Can you make a portrait of Fidel Castro that seems great, not shrill?  In fact it is, doors are doors, doors are lost, don’t lead to anything, used to, could lead to things, are off their hinges.IMG_0676

Images here by me.

Yoan Capote, “Collective Unconscious” at Jack Shainman Gallery on 20th Street


IMG_0779 Most of the time, when I go to the grocery store, I think about Gorbachev.   The Threat of Communism is something I vaguely remember, and the vision of a Soviet store where there is one kind of toothbrush (ugly, straight, and red) and one kind of bread (brown) has a firm place in my imagination.

Probably people born five or ten years after me don’t have these ideas as anything other than textbook asides, crammed into the last week of the school year.  (The Soviet Union existed for most of my grade school career, but didn’t make it to middle school.)

The most wonderful place in an American capitalist system is the supermarket.  I usually call it the “grocery store,” but you know a grocery store could be a place with a grocer, who actually sells you your food, or knows something about it.  No one at the supermarket knows anything.  They are just working there.  The thing is, a supermarket offers you such great bounty that there are not questions to be asked.  You don’t have to inquire, as Gorbachev did, Are there any toothbrushes today?  There are.  There are 83 toothbrushes, and you only need one.

The ceiling is outrageously high for no reason.  The approach to the place often has some Temple of Dendur-style colonnade.  Everything about the place is designed to prove to you that not only is there enough food here, there is so much food, you can strengthen and/or fatten yourself up until you feel like stopping, if you ever do.

Then you go inside, and the part that always inspires me with capitalist pig pride is the outrageous number of choices.  Would you like orange juice?  Maybe you want to squeeze it yourself.  Maybe you want it condensed and frozen.  Maybe condensed and bottled.  Maybe you’d prefer it ready to pour and bottled.  Would you like calcium thrown in?  Extra vitamin C?  Pulp?  No pulp?  What size?  Glass or plastic bottle?  Fake orange juice?  Juice boxes?  Refrigerated now, individual size, or bigger to take home later?  Name brand or generic?  Organic or filthy conventional?  It’s morning in America, indeed.

(I thought this was a grocery place?  It is, but you can also get drugs and cleaners and pet food and liquor and holiday decorations and plants and office supplies and possibly folding chairs or beach balls.)

I guess I could still compare our supermarkets with Cuban stores.  The trouble is, I think of Cuba in terms of cigars and old cars and palm trees.  I know the Cubans are suffering, but their suffering doesn’t turn me on the same way Soviet suffering does.  Maybe I’m mixing a Russian style of suffering, garnered from Doestoevsky and Pasternak, into my supermarket scenario.  This must be the fault of Reinaldo Arenas, who describes his suffering vividly, alongside the fabulous fun he had.  Russians in literature do party.   They just don’t have fun.

Even crazier than the selection, though, is the wildly inefficient way that the place is open 24 hours a day.  The huge place– the giant freezers that don’t even have doors, the ones that just leak and breathe out cold air constantly so their siren song to you is stronger– this place  is open 24 hours a day so that you can buy almost anything to make and eat almost anything whenever the hell you want to.  Really, we only need a drugstore open 24 hours a day, with emergency-staple food and a pharmacy.  But we’ve got so much more.

The idea of more, of course, is what Americans are so excited about, and what makes them so sexy and also so repellent.  There are a million situations in which more is a terrible mistake.  It creates shocking amounts of waste.  It also inspires creative people, though.  More, more, more!  Blogs.  Paintings.  Songs.  Nobody needs them.  Still we churn them out, insisting that more will help.  And actually, I think it will.