Alex Da Corte “Die Hexe”

Alex Da Corte: Die Hexe

Luxembourg & Dayan, New York

February 26, 2015 Through April 11, 2015

Opening night of Alex Da Corte’s “Die Hexe” (“The Witch” in German), caused a stir outside the narrow townhouse on 77th St. The exhibition hosted by Luxembourg & Dayan is billed as an “implausible cross between a dollhouse and a haunted house” as it unfolds in various themed rooms bewitched with ancestral voices.

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Installation view of Alex Da Corte, Die Hexe, 2015. Photo by John Bernardo, Courtesy of Luxembourg & Dayan

Da Corte is based in Philadelphia and is a collector of sorts with an eye for rearranging modern-day bric-a-brac in much the same way Mike Kelly gathered thrift store paraphernalia. All of the objects of “Die Hexe” seem to have a history, however brief. Plasticity is opposite the real in a colorful way. Spirits meld with the living and objects animate themselves in a reflection of culture without labels.

The exhibition is part of a continuing trend of gallery as multiplex. Each room has its own mood altering hues ranging from orange, purple/red, brown, and a sickly green. The rooms convey ambiguously engaging messages of the personal and impersonal, masculine and feminine. Motifs include birds, patterning, neon, mirrored surfaces, consumer goods, creative flooring, and wall covering creating a dramatic construct in a diagrammatic sense (Sol Lewitt) that alters the surroundings enough to make it punchy. There is not a tendency for gluttony or over-stimulation found in some of Da Cote’s predecessors like Paul McCarthy and Jason Rhoades. Nor is there a sensation of dark foreboding found in the work of Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe. Instead “Die Hexe” has a cerebral playfulness that is more attuned to relational aesthetics and its re-evaluation of art forms.

The re-evaluation of something considered valuable is a notion planted in the show with the addition of iconic works by artists such as Robert Gober’s “Drains” (1990) and Bjarne Melgaard’s bondage coffee table inspired by Allen Jones. This tactic has common interest, but does not charge a conversation. The exceptional value or “life force” of the added works is erased and at the same time reinvented by their very presence to begin with. It is yet another example of the context of consumption.

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One of the more interesting spaces featured the aforementioned Melgaard coffee table, a stripper pole, and bacchanal wallpaper whereupon the central figure’s penis exudes a squirt of neon that traverses the entire scene, explicitly marking the territory as a parlor of vices. A pink Razr phone performs a split on the stripper pole and indiscriminate and oddly phallic objects adorn the coffee table as an electronic cigarette blazes in the neon glow of pink panther. The room is fully charged with recreation, a contrast from the previous installation of a domestic scene than included a ghostly mechanical rocking chair.

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The exhibition ends in death.  A morgue is recreated in the final room.  The drawer of an ad hoc cold chamber is laid open.    The formaldehyde clogs the Gober drain, conjuring smells that are not really there.  A double mask of Jason (Halloween) with a dove perched on it and a few pears act as an offering, while also a wink to the notion of “pairs,”  or the “mirroring” of certain items in the room and the overall idea of body and soul duality. Lack luscious green is everywhere and a Swifter has a blonde headdress hinting at tragic comedy.

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What is most intriguing to ponder in “Die Hexe” is the question of value and authorship in relation to the present crisis of art.  And how long will artists favor the mise-en-scene, the stagey assemblage of notions in space?   Re-interpreted reality is certainly in the rub.  Da Corte will have an solo exhibition at Mass MoCA in March 2016.  It will be interesting to see what he can do in a larger quarters.