"An Uneven Floor" seen from the outside gallery window (left-hand side elevation)
What are these people doing (in the photo above)? Is this a private party? A carpet show? A recreational space for children? A conference? A reunion of sorts?
"An Uneven Floor" is a installation that opened last Saturday at Locust Projects in the Design District. The title of the exhibit is conveyed so literally as to elicit bafflement. Artist Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova has built two promontories inside the gallery space and carpeted the whole thing in bright pink. That's it.
(Right-hand side elevation)
To understand the direct correspondence between title ----> art-work we have to do a little history: For a good part of the last decade, Rodriguez-Casanova has produced a kind of auto-biographical œuvre that exhibits very little intervention. Let's address the latter first. The idea is to present objects as they appear in everyday-life as they relate to the artist's personal history. To put it simply: If the painted sunset is art, why not bring the sunset and show it as art?1
This is exactly the point of Three Lamps with Different Lights (2007):
Or Overturned Pink Chair, (2006, below). Both pieces refer exactly what's stated by their titles.
One obvious conclusion is that Rodriguez-Casanova removes one step in traditional art representation. He just "presents."2 Surely, this presentation requires planning (and a slightly different craft).3
A Mirroed-Wall (2006)
Walls divide and support. Mirrors reflect. The mirroring in the title of the installation above brings forth a conceptual redundancy, which, instead of "numbing meaning" (as when one repeats a word indefinitely), actually opens up a semiotic horizon where the artwork can be perceived more openly -and not without bafflement.
Back to "Uneven Floor," Rodriguez-Casanova wants us to think about things other than floor/geodesics. In fact, one could ponder the show's title as a case of metalepsis. What I'm getting at is that the most interesting point about the exhibit is not its unevenness. Rodriguez-Casanova's "as is" furniture as well as the gently-sloped pink-carpeted gallery floor, brings forth passed-over aspects of our daily practices as they go on amidst furniture and floors. How come?
The issue of "evenness" is suddenly brought to the fore, but as a "distance," as we come to perceive the floor in the absence of a "normal," leveled floor. More than thinking about it, Rodriguez-Casanova wants us to "feel it." This passage by Jacques Derrida in his Parages (p. 36) may help put this in perspective:
The more one is tempted to come near the proximity of that which is approaching, the more wholly other -and thus infinitely distanced- of proximity buries or empties itself.
If Rodriguez-Casanova's art can "present" at a par with reality, it must take a change of mood from immersion to awareness. Said differently, even as one checks out Rodriguez-Casanova's exhibit, one can still miss the "unevenness" of the floor.
And yet, the artist's "presentation" is not without risks: As art and reality are interpenetrated, art risks becoming as banal as reality itself. Then, something as authentic as one's own narrative can end up stifled, by the seduction of nostalgia, which makes the distancing from oneself the more difficult.
That said, the public at the show couldn't stop talking about the pink-all-over phenomenon. Momentarily, I looked for psychological associations. These disparate quotes belong in a book about the psychology of color, published in 1961:4
*Pink and tints of blue and violet are decidedly "sweet."
*The babies stared longest at yellow, then white, pink, red. Least attention was paid to black, green, blue, and violet.
*Bathrooms should be pink to give the skin a luminous glow through reflection.
*Pink and yellow mosquito curtains do not harbor insects.
According to Michael Hamphill, women respond to pink, more overtly than men (which is to be expected given that girls are conditioned to this color since they are infants).5 In addition, Lucretius described dawn as "pink" in his famous poem On the Nature of Things. Oscar Wilde's favorite color was... Yet, these facts are totally irrelevant.
The choice of pink has to do with Rodriguez-Casanova's own experience growing up in a house of Cuban immigrants whose idea of interior decoration was rather peculiar -and which was not that far from the norm of other Cuban exiles in Miami during the late 1960's and early 1970's. This fact explains The Light Behind Pink Blinds (2007).
It's worth mentioning that the show is a lot of fun: I saw children climbing up, sliding down and rolling all over the carpet. Adults were less adept, but nonetheless walked up and down the slopes -as if testing the firmness of the props beneath them. Everybody looked around (at the environment containing themselves?). Many were puzzled.
The director of Locust Projects told me how different the space looked without people in it. But then, would it be "uneven," or "pink"?
1 This brings a crucial distinction between Nature and art. Art is, by definition, man-made. 2 A sort of Wildean twist where "Life imitates art." See Oscar Wilde's The Decay of Laying (Harper and Row, 1989, p. 982). 3 This new craft can definitely make stuff, but being more conceptually-driven, it generally plans and produces. 4 Faber Birren's Color Psychology and Color Therapy: A Factual Study of the Influence of Color on Human Life (University Books, 1961). 5 Note on Adults' Color-Emotion Associations. Article by Michael Hemphill, Journal of Genetic Psychology, (Vol. 157, 1996).