Neither would we do justice to their considerable distinctness. On the one hand, a transplanted exhibition, even when including a perfectly identical number and selection of works, will always feel different and generate different meanings in a new location, with a different arrangement and amongst a new audience ; on the other hand a retrospective is usually understood to be the presentation of an individual artist’s most defining works and as such may be apt, through the amassed denseness, to radiate a unique atmosphere so strong as to become almost independent of its surroundings. While a lot of works had indeed travelled from NY to London and would have induced numerous déjà-vus in a person with the opportunity and interest to attend both of them, and both of the venues were of a character most conducive to the often noted unabashed nostalgia of my work (a qualification which I never had a reason to dispel), the similarities ended there.
The differences resulted from the specific architectural features of the respective premises, posing significant installational challenges, as well as budgetary restrictions and curatorial selections. For example, the video “From Cotton via Velvet to Tragedy”, 1989, with or without “Le Mani Sulla Città”, the “Blessing of their Gentleness”, “Rust at Rest”, “Celeste”, “Tending to Their Feet”, never made it to London.
Artist’s Space comprised two unconnected spaces located in different streets of the same neighbourhood. Both were former inner-city sites of production dating from the 19th century. The main one, in Greene Street, a vast open-plan floor, distinguished by two majestic rows of columns hewn from entire tree trunks and a frieze of windows running along two sides of it, flooding it with light and David Hopper-like views of the surrounding facades, required free-standing display walls. Here I reverted to the tried and tested paravents which could be arranged in ways so as to maximize daylight illumination and, given the early summer season, to dispense with electric lighting altogether ; indeed the poster I designed proclaimed : ”It closes at sunset”.
This time the segments of the folding screens were constructed from welded steel frames with inserted mdf panels since they were to be hung on both sides with paintings, but again, like in “Slowly Please-Kelaynak”, I unified them through a horizontal colour division, thus emphasizing their temporal and alien presence as a room, or rooms, within a room. And again, the contrasting colour combinations, different on both sides of the screens, were chosen for the same reasons : for their associations with superseded bureaucracies, neglected train stations, hospitals, provincial schools and police stations, employment and social welfare offices, in short where state-sanctioned, nationally implemented colour schemes might seem at first glance bafflingly cheerful but only as long as you didn’t have to suffer within their enclosure and they might become a symbol of violence and abuse. The shades of the colours, delivered by Benjamin Moore & Co., were titled 1438 Lavender Blue / 858 Athena on one side, 1250 Magic Potion / 873 Baby’s Breath on the other.
Raven Row, by contrast, was a complicated agglomeration of an ancient multi-storied townhouse dating from the 17th century and later adjuncts. It included two stairwells which turned out to be especially propitious to the display of “Kaspar”, “Melchior” and “Balthazar”. Absent from the show in NY, “Probleema”, “A Little Cantata” and “Innuendo” were all reconstructed here in novel and ingenious ways, and the paintings “Portrait of José Mujica” and “Promises, Promises” added a note not rung before.
Considering all of the above, we should probably say something about the diverging principles of these two outstanding organizations. While Artist’s Space developed out of a collective grassroots initiative echoing the western European secessionist models of the late 19th century, Raven Row was based on the private magnaminity of an English scion. Both institutions ceased to operate after my shows : Artist’s Space after the last wave of gentrification and Raven Row for what reason … I’m fishing for the correct term : maybe spleen ?
P.S : Both institutions have restarted their operations since then. Artist's Space has found a new location Cortland Alley NY, 001-212-2263970, and works under a new excellent curatorship (the former curator having left like the rats on a sinking ship) , while Raven Row had turned during its spleenish sabbatical into an artist's residenceand is expected to exhibit again at the start of the coming year.