Once in a blue moon, you enter an art installation that you wish would go on (and stay up) forever. Such was the case for me with Pipilotti Rist's show at the Museum of Modern Art last year, and I feel the same way about "The Experience of Green," Wade Kavanaugh and Stephen B. Nguyen's installation at the DUMBO Arts Center in Brooklyn, up for awhile, at least, through Nov. 29, 2009.
It's really very simple: a scarlet forest made of red, red paper in which, for a suggested donation of $2, you can get lost, like a kayak in the Everglades, a shrimp boat on the bayou, a dingy in the Maine woods. Since I live in the woods, where fungi are sprouting in bright orange at the moment and trees are collapsing daily, as I rake rippling piles of yellow leaves, I can get very cynical about the huge tree boom in modern art practice. Jennifer Steinkamp's tree videos, Roxy Paine's metal branches, Cindy Tower's flowering trees on silk, Sylvia Plimack Mangold's bare branches are at the head of a parade of tree-worshipping Druids that might even embarrass "tree" poet Joyce Kilmer in their single-minded worship of nerveless photosynthesis.
Yet Nguyen and Kavanaugh (who sound like a songwriting team) have so expertly mimicked the undulations of the forests, everything from overhanging branches to the green shoots emerging from dead stumps, that they are worthy of Baucis and Philemon, the poor Greek couple turned into trees for their hospitality to two wayfaring strangers who were Zeus and Hermes in disguise. A special benefit is the DUMBO Arts Center's proximity to Brooklyn Bridge Park, which allows you, with the fortification of a pint or two, to take an air bath amidst "real" trees under the bridges and then quickly revisit the scarlet forest. The title of the show refers to an optical illusion promised by the artists when leaving the show.
I didn't experience it, but then I am duller than most. If you are tired of lame Duchampian gestures and overrated submagicians like Urs Fischer and Sterling Ruby, the Red Woods await a few blocks from the F train. Bring your friends.
Wade Kavanaugh and Stephen B. Nguyen, "The Experience of Green," Sept. 25-Nov. 29, 2009, at the DUMBO Arts Center, 30 Washington Street, New York, N.Y. 11201
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).