Fall 2010,Degree Critical

Monday 11/29/2010

Lucy Skaer. Rachel, Peter, Caitlin, John (2010); (still) 16 mm film. Courtesy Location One, NY.

Rachel, Peter, Caitlin, John

byJillann Hertel (2011)

Films, sculptures and artfully wielded hole punchers juxtaposed with familiar and abstract subject matter make up British artist Lucy Skaer’s first solo project in New York: Rachel, Peter, Caitlin, John. The exhibition is a sort of visual puzzle, which if you spend some time connecting the pieces will illustrate notions of interruption, reinvention and the alchemy involved in filling in the missing parts of vision.

The cinematic component of the show is made up of three 16mm films that run on loops from separate projectors pointed at three different walls. The films run simultaneously, enveloping the viewer in a three-sided onslaught of images. Placed on a one-foot high table within the space are nine sculptures, each made from a single material: bronze, copper, pewter, black wood or porcelain. The sculptures are similar in length and girth to baguettes, but shaped differently from one another, most noticeably at their ends. For example, the tip of one forms a plus sign, another a square.

Skaer’s live-action color films showcase one subject each that include close ups of a cat, a Rothko painting and images of pages from a Gutenberg bible. Initially, this combination of subjects raises the question as to whether Skaer is attempting to depict, in some way, similar or dissimilar aspects of nature, the artworld and religion. Is it her aim to illustrate discontinuity or to suggest similarity among her subjects and her mediums (sculpture and film)?

Things start falling into place as each of the projected images begins to intermittently include oddly shaped white sections whose function is to remove a chunk of the images, rendering them incomplete yet recognizable. The film of the cat, for instance, is still perceived as a cat even when sections are absent (like missing puzzle pieces). Attentive viewers will notice that the ends of the sculptures feature the same shapes as the spaces removed from the frames of the films. Skaer seems to be making a statement about how perception and representation are organized. The projections emphasize the two-dimensionality of images of three-dimensional objects, while the sculptures on the table embody the viewer’s tendency to infer more than she perceives, to constantly augment her basic perceptions by “filling in the rest.” In Rachel, Peter, Caitlin, John, Skaer draws us into a stimulating encounter by requiring a self-reflexive assessment of our senses; she deconstructs our perceptions by interrupting our habitual, naive gaze.