This is an exhibition about entry. It is also about exit. It is about the journey between these two realms—across the divide that separates them. Trans- is a Latin noun, but also a prefix that means across, beyond, through, or on the opposite side. Four New York-based artists—niv Acosta, Lauren Bakst, Nica Ross, and Grant Worth—make use of movement, sound, and photography to adventure within the traditions and tropes of performance, and subvert the archetypes of identities therein. Though the lineage of art history is acknowledged in their visual vernacular, there is an elegant irreverence regarding representation and power - a sliding between real time and dream space, between that which is human and that which is divine, between the celebrity and the ordinary. Thus, this work opens the doors to many rooms, both literal and figurative. Through these portals we wander, entering and exiting exciting new territories, documented via a contemporary lens, an ever-watchful eye - each artist monitoring and making use of the physical form across, beyond, through, and on the opposite sides of a looking glass that provides a glimpse into a brave new world and the new bodies therein.
In B S V BULK (2010), Nica Ross documents a "heavy wrestling session." In her words, the video is an "edit of space and bodies" charted out in the hierarchies asserted within the frame of the film, as well as via the sound—chopped up, looped, reworked, yet recognizable. Across this room, the viewer witnesses a knotted struggle of bodies, two forms that, in coming into contact, cycle through varying stages of exchange. All at once the process of wrestling is a brutality, a fair fight, a trust exercise, a love-making, a fucking, an assault, a caress, a victory—suspended, circling, but never landing. Amidst the crunch, one witnesses the intimacy of sportsmanship, a sequence that exposes itself as both vulnerable and saturated with hubris, a determined combination, a double-sided coin, a competitor, divided, an alter-ego sided against its other half.
In niv Acosta's collaboration with Tess Dworman, excerpt hearts (2012), the duo performs excerpts of song covers ranging from Azealia Banks to Beirut. Two bodies, untethered, in motion throughout space, dependent and codependent upon one another for the execution of the task at hand, incomplete without one or the other, and deliberately incomplete in their lyrics, Acosta and Dworman provide the audience with rich slices of a greater musical delight. The sensation that lingers behind is one of deep want—a lacking. An audience experiencing excerpt hearts is dependent at best, a third party unrequited, left in the lurch to finish the songs themselves, a syncopated harmonizing beyond the immediate performance that mimes the rhythms of relationships and the irresistible entropies of affection.
"There are an infinite number of ways to get down and get back up again," Lauren Bakst observes. In of ruins or something (2011-12)—a triptych that takes form for the first time here via Culturehall's digital platform—Bakst outlines the journey of her choreography, from integrated video footage, to practicing in the studio, and finally to a Rihanna-infused debut at Judson Memorial Church. The first of the three featured here, of ruins or something (1) (2011), acts as a blueprint for that which follows, the lines sketched out in the rise, collapse, and rewinding of both natural and physical forms, and the gestures therein. In the unfolding of each part within this triad, Bakst shades in a bit more detail, illustrating an investigation of cyclical repetition, tragedy, failure, and regeneration. In this work, the "get[ting] down" acts as a foil to the embodiment of "get[ting] back up again," each monumental characters that compete with and complement one another.
If the work of each of the featured artists moves across, beyond, and through, the protagonists of Grant Worth's Easter Glamour Portrait Studio series have built out neon-imbibed, surrealist forts, and universes of their own; they exist on the opposite side. Paused in eternity and peering through the white windows of Worth's Polaroid snapshots, each figure has undergone a transformation and shows him or herself freshly reconstructed, the personas of their newly minted alter-egos emboldened by the swathing of costumery. The progress is the product—subject to change, but for an instant, frozen in finality. Each figure rises from the backdrop behind it, a sculpture in its own right, and an oft-playful spin on portraiture, a subversion of the gaudy decadence of glamour shots and their role within mainstream American culture.
Legacy Russell is a writer, artist, and curator. She has worked at and produced programs for The Bruce High Quality Foundation, Creative Time, the Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney, and the Met. Her project ERRATUM is currently part of Young Curators, New Ideas IV. She is Art Editor of BOMB Magazineâs BOMBLOG, and a co-founder of the curatorial team Limited Time Only. A candidate for an MRes of Visual Culture at Goldsmithâs University, her work explores mourning, remembrance, iconography, and idolatry within the public realm. Her performance, The Initiation, debuts December 2012 at The Museum of Arts and Design, New York.