Craig Kalpakjian, Mar. 30-May 4, 2002, at Andrea Rosen Gallery, 525 West 24th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.
Though it closes in less than a week, Craig Kalpakjian's first solo show deserves a last-minute trip to Andrea Rosen Gallery in Chelsea. If you've been already, it's worth a second visit.
In a contemporary art scene given to vibrant hooks -- giant video screens, alarming images, scathing irony -- Kalpakjian's exhibition is so balanced and cool that it's easy to poke your head into the gallery, look around for a second and walk right back out, convinced there's not much going on.
But that would be a mistake. Kalpakjian's work since the mid-1990s has consisted of CAD (computer-assisted design) renderings depicting banal corporate spaces, with their characteristically characterless white corridors, tile ceilings and institutional fixtures. For this show he continues the theme, presenting Gélee prints mounted on black Plexi (in editions of six, "because they can be," says the artist) as well as a deceptively complicated sculpture and a flat-screen video piece that sits face up on the floor.
The thrust of the show is best summed up in the prints, which are large (four by six feet, say), seamless and shiny. In one, a gray hallway runs from right to left, bisected by a square column. In another, a ceiling is shown in close-up where it meets the corner of a room. In still another, the most action-packed of the bunch, a convex mirror overlooks a stairwell. (The large prints, done in an edition of six, are $12,000 each.)
Like Minimalism before it, Kalpakjian's work has an obdurate dizziness. It's trance music for corporate culture.
If you miss the Rosen show, the Metropolitan Museum has one of Kalpakjian's prints on display by the 20th-century wing, a photo image of a long corridor. See that, then visit the Hoppers close by -- there's a similarity. Kalpakjian's interiors have the same feeling of being somehow just outside an impassive, ghostly scene.
Kalpakjian doesn't play up the fact that the prints are computer renderings instead of photographs proper. The work isn't in pursuit of some kind of digital gimmick. Rather, he seeks a consideration of those spaces that we inhabit yet cancel from consciousness. Try to remember a particular institutional hallway, and it's remarkably difficult.
The fact that the spaces are computer-generated -- vectors and mathematical "particles" -- adds to the feeling of displacement. And why not, since most office buildings today are designed on computers? For Kalpakjian, computer-assisted design is an instrument of observation, much as industrial fabrication was for the Minimalists.
The show features two sculptures. One includes a toy robot dog (called an AIBO) that is trapped inside of a large, sealed, box made of office ceiling material. The dog can't get out, but roams around the inside of the box taking random digital photographs of its homogenous surroundings. Every day, Kalpakjian takes the black-and-white prints and hangs them on the wall beside the sculpture, and every day the new photographs look very similar to their predecessors. (These pictures, co-authored by Kalpakjian and the dog robot, who is named WeeGee, are limited to a set of 15 in an edition of three with one artist's proof, and are $200 each.)
The title of the floor-video piece, Shoegazer, refers to a sort of ponderous, boring, some might say sensual British rock movement. In the video, the "camera" (the computer's "eye," really) wobbles slowly over what seems to be a slick granite floor that reflects the ceiling tiles over it, while the real, physical video screen reflects the viewer's shadow and the skylight of the gallery.
Everything is super flat, even the video monitor. We consider the floor, the tiles, the skylight; we consider the empty hallways, and rooms, and stairwells; and we consider the kind of culture that gives us robot pets and ponderous, boring British music.
MICHAEL ROSSI is a writer who lives in New York.
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