Representing Dichotomies

At the heart of the new group show at Marian Goodman Gallery, Sunset Décor, is a story and an image, or rather two images. Shortly before his death in 1976, Marcel Broodthaers prepared two photographs of his show from the previous year, Décor: A Conquest By Marcel Broodthaers at the ICA, and sent them to his friend, the poet Alian Jouffroy. The pictures, one of which showed a 19th century room filled with various props including a gigantic stuffed python, and the other a 20th century equivalent featuring amongst other things a row of M-16 machine guns, represented one of the most overtly political pieces of his career.

This show evokes Broodthaers’ late collection and the light it shone on the social context of the period in which he worked. Much as a variety of different narratives emerged from the artist’s 1975 exhibition and helped explore the symmetry between colonialism in the 19th century and the imperialist politics that prevailed in the 20th, here the contributing artists continue to ruminate on various dichotomies – interior and exterior, near and far, domesticity and warfare.

With the aim of questioning how nature, land and the individual are put to work in the name of freedom, civilisation and democracy, Sunset Décor provides a space in which diverse topics can be articulated by the networks that arise between artists, objects and documents. Leonor Antunes and Cerith Wyn Evans have created pieces referencing Broodthaers’ 1975 film, La Bataille de Waterloo, giving it a renewed presence in the gallery. The work of 19th century photographers Eadweard Muybridge, Carleston E. Watkins and Timothy H. O’Sullivan documents the inscription of contemporary politics into the Arcadian landscapes they witnessed and captured, while that of Lothar Baumgarten and Danh Vo explores the development and subsequent fate of a railroad system that relied on the expropriation of land in the Western territories.

Jean Marie Perdrix, Hiroshi Sugimoto and David Wojnarowicz consider the exploitation of natural resources to the point of extinction, and Marco Esparza and Joachim Koester turn their attentions to the idea of self-empowerment as a potential precursor for redemptive violence in the name of civilization. With a mix of works from both old and contemporary artists culminating in an enquiry that spans both ideas and eras, there’s plenty here to think about.

Ned Carter Miles

Sunset Décor is on show until 25 August at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York. For more information:

1. Trevor Paglen, Subsatellite Ferret-D over the Eastern Sierra (Electronic Intelligence Satellite; USA 3), 2012. Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery.