Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art
by Ernest Pascucci, ARTFORUM
“Landscape Reclaimed,” a consistently smart show comprising the responses of conceptual artists to “landscape” and curated by Harry Philbrick, took full advantage of its site: a museum surrounded by aging, under-appreciated Minimalist sculpture and sweeping suburban lawns – in short a site just waiting for Komar & Melamid to stage a local version of their America’s Most Wanted, 1994. Of the artists represented, it was the Soviet-born duo that engaged the community most directly with their sublimely ironic tribute to participatory democracy.
Other artists also stretched the concept of landscape while respecting the parameters of the picture plane. David Diao’s beautifully glib Plots Available depicted a site plan of Green River Cemetery, Long Island’s version of Pere Lachaise which houses the remains of nearly every New York School painter. Beverly Semmes reached back even further into art history with Figure in the Purple Velvet Bathrobe and Cloud Hat on the Beach.
Generally, the more successful contributions to “Landscape Reclaimed” found ways to rethink the genre, while the less interesting pieces desperately inscribed themselves in it. Among the former, I would include Gregory Greene and Nancy Dwyer. By contrast works by Mira Schor, Veronica Ryan, or Nam June Paik’s video sculpture 9 Up Bush were less inspired.
A standout installation by Dawn DeDeaux quietly suggest these artists needn’t have tried so hard to reclaim landscape. Her Postcards to Teddy Roosevelt while Thinking of Yves Klein included two television monitors resting face-up, muffled by translucent wax paper – one showing a deer carcass alongside a local highway, the other sheep grazing near an electrical fence – so that suddenly the sounds of buzzing flies, passing traffic, cowbells, and snapping power lines seemed haunting. Six photo-collages lined the gallery walls depicting repetitive industrial scapes of satellite dishes and chain-linked fences through which viewers could only catch glimpses of brutally strip-mined or otherwise neglected land forms. Their formal beauty as pictures, as landscapes, only added to the installation’s visceral effect. Who would ever suspect that working through, as opposed to reworking, the traditional genre of landscape would have produced the show’s most powerful – and nuanced – work?