Magazine article Artforum International

Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe: Marlborough Chelsea

Magazine article Artforum International

Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe: Marlborough Chelsea

Article excerpt

It's safe to say that no one will ever accuse Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe of lacking ambition. Over the past six years, the artist team has created (and, in a few cases, re-created) one madly elaborate environment after another, physically and psychologically immersive spatial confections that have proliferated in museums, galleries, and other venues (a Miami condo, a Schindler residence in Los Angeles) at a rate that belies the installations' material richness and technical virtuosity. For all the work's heterogeneity--room after room is crammed with everyday objects both found and made, not to mention the pair's own paintings, collages, sculptures, photographs, packaging and publication designs, and more--these disorienting architectural mash-ups do propose a conceptual through line of sorts: They are spaces that metaphorically investigate, and experientially enact, altered states of consciousness. Freeman and Lowe's evident pharmaceutical fascinations--whether conjured, as in the past, via hardscrabble kitchen meth labs or the remains of glamorously louche acid parties--might superficially read as bad-boy high jinks, but taken together they come into focus as the resonant trappings of a certain kind of liberatory, ecstatic seeking, one in which drugs are a familiar, but hardly the only, means of intoxication.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Like their kinsmen in the international guild of hallucinatory master builders--Mike Nelson, Gregor Schneider, Christoph Buchel--Freeman and Lowe work hard to balance verisimilitude and uncanny disjunction, and Stray Light Grey, 2010-12, a warren of rooms, hallways, and staircases that colonized Marlborough Chelsea, calibrated the ratio of rightness to wrongness with persuasive accuracy. Viewers fortunate enough to stumble upon a "historical" time-line text that functioned as a kind of exegesis for the entire enterprise (but which was inconspicuously tucked inside a newsprint zine rather quietly available at the gallery's front desk) would have found oblique clues as to what awaited them once they passed into the main space of the installation. The backstory oscillates between the real and the fictional (and resists abridgement), just like their insanely hybrid construction. But certain of its threads do prove useful in providing some context for the show's often bafflingly free-floating imagery and data: among them, a definition of the title phrase ("stray light" is apparitional glare produced by defects in optical systems); the story of the metastasization of a nineteenth-century exposition known as the San San International from a showcase for "poisonous plants and exotic animals" into, depending on which paragraph you're reading, a convention center with more than 1,750 exhibitors taking part in trade shows, art exhibitions, and hi-tech events, or a "metroplex" plagued by gang warfare and a drug trade involving any number of psychotropic and/or technological medications; and the tale of Annabel Vale, a Los Angeles socialite who, beginning in the 1950s, amassed a huge archive of material relating to subcultures and secret societies, which she stored in a bohemian hotel built by her late husband and frequented by characters ranging from the French utopian Etienne Cabet to Theodor Adorno, Max Ernst, and Thomas Mann. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.