Famous for his architectural interventions, multimedia artist Douglas Aitken has developed his own singular approach to artistic creation by constructing site-specific installations that render a capricious escape from the thralls of urbanism while challenging intellectual disparities between nature and culture. Aitken’s most recent exhibition “100 YRS” is currently on view at 303 Gallery through March 23.
For this exhibition, Aitken has transformed the gallery setting into a post-apocalyptic world by integrating sculptured text and sound variations with cavernous openings chiseled into the walls and a pile of rocks reminiscent of planetary remains. “The exhibition is about time and the different ways a length of time can be experienced. Because 100 years is more or less a lifetime, it is something both natural to think about and impossible to get your head around much like the nature of experiencing all of one’s life in an instant,” said 303 Gallery owner Lisa Spellman.
Central to the main space stands Sonic Fountain, a concrete abyss filled with milky white water dug directly into the gallery floor. Five rods are suspended from the ceiling dropping water into the pool in manipulated rhythmic patterns, producing an intimate sense of spacial obscurity and transcendental experience. When asked what about the site specifically influenced Aitken to create this installation, Spellman said, “As this is the last show at the current location of 303 gallery, there was a move to somehow incorporate the demolition of the gallery itself; to see these walls and floors from which so much art was hung and viewed turned inside out and thought of in terms of how they are charged spaces made of the most basic materials.”
Inside a hollowed-out grotto on the west wall is Sunset (black), a textual sculpture made from hand-carved foam, epoxy, and hand silk-screened acrylic spelling out the word “SUNSET.” Meant to resemble a stone formation, the work is lit from behind, projecting its presence on the viewer in a promontory fashion. The placement of the work on the west well sparks direct connotations with the literal sunset, yet can also be deciphered as commentary on death and social degradation or simply a means of re-emphasizing the ominous setting Aitken has created.
Also on view is the sculpture MORE (shattered pour). Created from fragmented mirrors, it alludes to the darker side of human nature grounded in an innate fascination with the unattainable.
An emphasis on time is underlined in Fountain (Earth Foundation) erected alone in the back gallery. This fountain-like sculpture, made from Plexiglas letters that spell the word “ART” and pump a mud-like substance, offers a moment of reprieve from the pervading eeriness of the main space. The word itself is the only reminder of being in an institutionalized setting, as the natural, yet engineered sound quality of the watercourse evokes a hypnotic effect.
When leaving, the light box Not Enough Time in the Day serves as a final attempt the dissolution of time and space and art as an ephemeral constituent in our natural environment.
Doug Aitken is an American born multimedia artist who lives and works in both Los Angeles and New York City. His body of work ranges from photography, print media, sculpture, and architectural interventions, to narrative films, sound, single and multi-channel video works, installations, and live performance. Aitken’s work has been included in numerous solo and group exhibitions around the world including the Serpentine Gallery in London, the Vienna Secession, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. In addition, he participated in the Whitney Biennial 1997 and 2000 and earned the International Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1999. Aitken’s well recieved large scale outdoor exhibitions have been featured at MoMA (NYC, 2007), INHOTIM (Brazil, 2009), Isola Tiberna (Rome, 2009), and the Hirshhorn Museum (Washington, D.C., 2012). This month, the Seattle Art Museum will install “Mirror,” a new monumental commission made of LED’s, permanently on the museum’s façade.