From my perspective I don’t really see things are they are. But then again nor do I not. It’s as if Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle were applied not to sub-atomic matter but the particulates of thought. The question, whether of the experiment or the picture, is how can I be in it and see it at the same time? How can art bypass the observer effect and where do parallel trains of thought meet?
Eileen Gray’s windows for the French villa E-1027 facade might suggest an answer. What she created there was in effect an impossible room divider – dividers being Gray’s first line of work and one that she continued throughout her career. Impossible because while they proposed division they didn’t effect it, they simply created an invisible line between one side and the other, between me and you. Here the skeletal structure is fleshed out in reflective museum grade glass. Three panels. Three graces. No divisions.
A lot has been said about the home and not all of it is true. Most revolves around ideas of hearts and castles, of love and security and other more or less clichéd ways of building ourselves onto the structures we come to inhabit. But in reality as in real estate truisms may be right, and, however much we may believe that we own the material we rent the space. These are the structural reassurance that like Joan Didion fabled stories, we tell ourselves in order to live. Take them away and all that is left is psychic rubble, the building blocks of our being strewn across uneven ground or carefully placed within the pristine white space of the gallery-mind.
This same ambivalence permeates the objects and space of Olympia Scarry’s most recent show. Where previous work such as ‘All that is Solid melts into Air’ proposed a structure never to be built, No House Music un-builds the structures we once believed secure. The door is unhinged. Made of glass it opens onto nothing to become a dysfunctional portal now divorced from the idea of threshold. The connection between interior and exterior is shattered and transparent, as fragile and structurally unsound as a soft copper column seen here as capable of supporting nothing but itself. Even the steel is suspect, a liquid chain-mail version of its more familiar and rigid integrity. And so Scarry strips the protections of house and body away, to reveal beneath the security blanket of our own constructions, a delicate and febrile world of material form.
Like water, glass exists in both solid and liquid states. Both are fundamental to the architectures we take for granted. At the same time, in their most common form they are invisible. The architectural glass works on view here for the first time continue this exploration of visibility that began in Gstaad in 2014 during Elevation1049 with “All that is solid melts into air”, a piece that not coincidentally was first installed on a frozen lake and which now in it’s new iteration in 2018, is firmly grounded into the earth. Here a series of gilded profile poles demarcate the invisible form of a structure perhaps dreamt of but never built. With these new works “Untitled, Window”, “Untitled, Door” and “Untitled, Six Windows” Scarry also diagrams possibility while at the same time withholding the very point of view that such possibility commonly provides. The thing that we typically look through, we are here asked to look at. Ultimately, suggesting that how we perceive our notion of the world into concrete structures, both literally and figuratively, may be in constant flux. A glass door, is made from the shards of windows that originally belonged to a building that aspired to be NY’s tallest but never was. Leaned against the wall it opens not onto the dreams of others, but onto itself. The glass works were produced in collaboration with Urs Rickenbach who also produced Sigmar Polke’s windows for the Grossmunster Cathedral in Zurich in 2009, which inspired Scarry’s “The Son Of Man” an abstracted Rorschach diptych glass work . Each of these works is the result of the masterful alchemy of transformation. Hence, Scarry’s decision to borrow from one of Polke’s paintings, the title for her show at Hauser & Wirth’s Vieux Chalet in Gstaad “Seeing Things As They Are” . Each exists on the balance point between the visible universe and the unknown landscape that lies behind.
-by Neville Wakefield