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Anthony McCall’s large-scale installation “Face to Face” – currently up at Sean Kelly’s new Hudson Yards location through March 23 – is a hybrid of painting and sculpture that fuses abstract images with minimalist forms using double-sided screens, two projectors, and a pair of fog machines. The work’s invitation for interaction, countered by it’s own formidable assertion of physical presence makes for an awesome experience of crossing the line between looking at a work and stepping into it.
From the floor of a dark room, a projector shines vividly bright white lines onto the front and back of a two-sided screen about 35 feet away. The thin lines, which drift slowly across a black background, seem to trace the straight diagonals and curved ends of something like an infinity sign. To the right of the projector, a fog machine puffs an atmosphere of fog that sculpts itself around the drifting frames as defined by the lines of light in-between the projector and the screen. This set up is mirrored lengthwise and flipped so that the line between the two projectors and that of the two screens form an X.
The many possible points of view create a corresponding diversity of ways in which to experience the work. Standing next to or behind either of the projectors, looking at the screens, the lines dominate what can be seen as a painting in cinematic motion on a flat surface. Walking or standing alongside the field of light and looking back towards the projector, the fog filled space in between is dominated by the sculptural weight evoked by the equally cinematic and smoky movement of the fog through the light. Experiencing the painterly and sculptural perspectives of the work simultaneously is made possible by standing in between the two set ups, thus enabling them to be seen as one, from both directions at the same time.
Sean Kelly, founder of the gallery, characterizes the work as “…having the power and strength of the sculpture of someone like Richard Serra while simultaneously employing the ephemeral fluidity of drawing. Anthony is one of those unique artists whose work elicits a reaction across a broad spectrum, not only on the highest conceptual and intellectual level but also on a powerful emotional visceral level as well. Visitors very much enjoy being able to move in and around the ‘solid light’ forms.”
Indeed, the prospect of stepping into the area between the projector and screen grows increasingly taunting, yet simultaneously daunting. Doing so, the resulting shadow cast on the screen incites a sensation of interruption of the painting. This intrusion of light is paired with a similar sense of invasion of space that makes for an out-of-body sense of self-awareness. Stepping behind the screen and watching as someone else steps into the field of light, the feeling of removal from the space is voyeuristic in a way that somehow strengthens the all around duality of the work in it’s straddling of painting and sculpture, abstraction and minimalism, all while casting viewers as participants.
Anthony McCall is a British-born (1946) American avant-garde artist, specializing in cinema/projected film. His work is included in several major public collections worldwide: the Tate Gallery, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museé National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; and the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt. In 2012, The New Art Trust (NAT) announced the promised gift by Pamela and Richard Kramlich of all of McCall’s early solid light films and related material for presentation to the NAT’s three consortium members: the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Tate, United Kingdom.