Susan Morris | Reviews

Big Art

Leandro Erlich’s The Building.

The Liberty Science Center (LSC) at New York Harbor, gazing out at the Statue of Liberty on the NJ side, is launching Big Art, its first large-scale foray into presenting art at this interactive science museum that boasts the largest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere. The two inaugural works are Leandro Erlich’s The Building and Dustin Yellin’s The Politics of Eternity.

Perhaps one of LSC’s permanent exhibitions, Skyscraper! Achievement and Impact, thought to be the most comprehensive exhibit on the subject was a clue to the commission of the work that greets you when you enter the museum’s entry hall, Leandro Erlich’s The Building. A life-size New York City building facade complete with fire escapes, arched and rectangular windows, brickwork and street-level deli is spread across the expanse of floor, while an equally large mirror is set at a 45-degree angle above it. Visitors, who Erlich calls “spect-actors” romp around the elements on the ground, but see themselves climbing, dangling and perching on the facade in the reflection above. It’s a giddy experience that delights old and young.

LEFT: Erlich’s La Nuit Blanche. RIGHT: Erlich’s The Swimming Pool

This is part of a series called Bâtiment (“building” in French) by the Argentinian artist who has created local, vernacular “buildings” in Paris (La Nuit Blanche), London (Dalton House), Milan (Shikumen), Buenos Aires, Donetsk, and Japan. He is inspired by the film work of Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, Luis Buñuel, and David Lynch and the writer Jorge Luis Borges’s “suspension of disbelief.” Born into a family of architects, much of Erlich’s work deals with architectural spaces, mirroring and projections. “I worked with the idea of doublings, a constant in my work. Doublings can be produced by a mirror….the mirror has a magical property: it shows that reality is not one thing, but that there are many perspectives—the perspectives each of us takes regarding life...Bâtiment: It is a mirage, a reflection in the mirror.” Truly trompe l’oeil, as are his earlier works such as The Swimming Pool, The Shaft, Pulled by the Roots, and Elevator Pitch.

The Politics of Eternity.

Dustin Yellin, artist and founder of Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the cultural center that integrates art and science, embeds paint, magazine cutouts, and found media in layers of laminated glass in The Politics of Eternity. He calls this technique “Frozen Cinema.” Telling a narrative across time, the work harks back to ancient totems and projecting forward to jet packs and space helmets in a city of the future; here, activities repeat in the past and inn times to come. The iconography casts a broad allegorical sweep of land and water in these “drawings in space.” The craftsmanship executing these collages in over 10,000 pounds of glass in seven staggered plinths set in a chevron shape testifies to skill needed to create this ambitious work. He is inspired by artists as diverse as Joseph Cornell and Hieronymus Bosch.  

Details from The Politics of Eternity.

The Building will be up through 2023 and The Politics of Eternity can be seen through March 2024 at the Liberty Science Center in Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ.

Posted in: Arts + Culture

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